“When my patients-especially women-complain about dry eyes, I am careful to always ask them about dry mouth symptoms as well as achy joints,” stated Connecticut Ophthalmologist and Corneal Specialist Leslie Doctor, M.D. of Doctor & Associates in Fairfield County CT. “Sometimes they give me a funny look when I explain that dry eye and dry mouth symptoms may be related.”
"Patients might not be aware that if they have dryness in their eyes and mouth, along with fatigue or pain and swelling in some of their joints, could indicate a condition called Sjögren’s syndrome,” commented Corneal Specialist and Massachusetts Ophthalmologist Keegan Johnson, M.D. of Center for Sight in Fall River.
“Sjögren’s syndrome is thought to affect some 4 million people in the United States-so we do see it in everyday practice. While it can be found in men and women, the vast majority of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome are women in their 50’s and 60’s,” reported Dr. Leslie Doctor. “Statistically Sjögren’s syndrome is nine times more likely to occur in women.”
“In Sjögren’s syndrome, the body’s immune system can attack moisture producing cells throughout the body-the eyes, mouth, joints and even other internal organs can be affected. As a corneal specialist, I will assess the health of the ocular surface but I may also request consultation with an oral disease specialist or a dentist experienced with dry mouth and a rheumatologist, who can manage and coordinate the patient’s care,” stressed Dr. Johnson.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic condition, and there is no cure. However, coordinated care and treatment by ophthalmologists who are specialists in dry eye and eye surface disease, dentists who are specialists in dry mouth and rheumatologists who specialize in the immune system can improve symptoms, make patients more comfortable and prevent problems like cavities and eye infections.