My rheumatologist suggested a “shot gun” approach to dealing with my symptoms. He suggested mouthwash and ointments for my dry mouth. As well, he recommended short naps for my fatigue. Finally, he suggested cold compresses and drops for my dry eyes. But he never suggested contact lenses. Everyone reminded me that the impact of my symptoms could change. As a result, he ask, “Right now, what affects you most?”
What Affects You Most?
I really had to think about that question. The doctor wanted me to find treatment for all my symptoms, but be most aggressive with what affected my life most. Because of this, I made a list of areas of my life affected by symptoms ranking each symptom with each area on the list.
- Family Life?
Taking every area of my life into account, I decided that my Sjogren’s syndrome affected my life most, because of my dry eyes.
My eyes were sore at work all day long. My cornea’s were tearing because of the dryness. So it was difficult to work.
I didn’t enjoy driving. The sun gave me fits because of light sensitivity. My family life was curtailed because I didn’t enjoy movies and other activities with sore eyes. I was using drops and artificial tears every 30 seconds. Because of this, socializing was no longer fun. I had almost completely stopped reading.
As I compared the various symptoms of Sjogren’s against the life impact list above, I decided to address my severe dry eyes symptoms aggressively..
Dry Eyes – Common Marker
Jacqueline Dauhajer, MD and Richard Atallah published an article in the “Review of Ophthalmology” on Nov., 11, 2014 stating that:
“Sjögren’s syndrome affects an estimated 4 million people in the United States, of which 3 million are undiagnosed, yet it is one of the three most common autoimmune diseases. Most importantly, aqueous-deficient dry eye is associated with decreased lacrimal secretion and is a common early symptom of Sjögren’s syndrome and a hallmark of the condition”
Although there are no hard numbers offered, this article strongly suggests that millions of people suffer from dry eyes because of Sjogren’s.
The same article further states:
“The overlap between Sjögren’s syndrome and dry eye means that eye-care professionals are in a unique and critical position to identify Sjögren’s years ahead of the current standard. Not only can we make a difference in the lives of our patients by the early identification of a serious autoimmune disease, but knowing if there is an underlying cause of dry eye can also help us to better manage their ocular symptoms more effectively. Our findings support the need for increased diligence for eye-care professionals managing dry-eye patients and the recommendation that the potential presence of Sjögren’s syndrome should be considered in all dry-eye patients, regardless of disease stage.”
My Rheumatologist referred me to an “eye-care” professional to treat this symptom.
Dry Eye Remedies – Hard to Find
WebMD identifies a few common remedies for dry eyes
- Artificial tear drops and ointments.
- Your doctor might opt to close the punctum, or duct that drains tears from your eye. He might start with a temporary plug designed to dissolve over time.
- If temporary plugs work well, your doctor may move to longer-lasting ones. Or he could choose a procedure called cautery.
I have tried all of the above. Each gave some temporary relief.
Special Contact Lenses Worked for Me.
My ophthamalogist spent hours with me trying the remedies mentioned about. At one point, she suggested trying scleral contact lenses. She told me that these are the best contact lenses for dry eyes. I had used contact lens before, but had never heard of this kind of contact.
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia states that:
“A scleral lens, also known as a scleral contact lens and ocular surface prostheses is a large contact lens that rests on the sclera and creates a tear-filled vault over the cornea. Scleral lenses are designed to treat a variety of eye conditions, many of which do not respond to other forms of treatment.
When I got the lenses, I took a short course on how to clean them and apply them to my eyes. Because they were large and solid, I was worried. I learned to use a tiny suction cup for putting the lens in and taking taking out. As well, the learning process included figuring out how to eliminate even the tiniest bubble on the lens.
Although simple, I took me awhile to learn the process. Now I am comfortable with the contact lenses and the process. Consequently, its easy for me to pause, from time to time, during the day, to refill the lenses.
I still use drops if my eye getting particularly dry. However, these lenses have changed my life.
If you have tried all the other treatments and still have severe dry eye, ask your “eye-care” specialist about sclera lenses.
Please take a moment to leave your thoughts on this page in the comment section. Do you have dry eyes? Could sclera lenses help you? What other symptoms do you have?
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