Dry eye… a sign of arthritis?

Many arthritic conditions have an autoimmune reason behind them. One common autoimmune condition is Sjogren’s disease. This is an inflammatory, chronic, syndrome that affects glands that produce secretions, eg. tears, saliva, and mucus.sjogrens-eye

Symptoms due to Sjogren’s are myriad and consist of complaints such as irritation or burning of the eyes, dry tongue and mouth with difficulty eating dry food, swelling of the glands in the neck, and dryness of the nose, skin, and sjogrens-toguevagina.

The dryness of the eyes can lead to corneal abrasions and infection of the eye.  Dryness of the mouth can accelerate dental decay and also cause fungal infections to develop. Involvement of the bronchial tree can lead to an increased frequency of upper respiratory infections.

Sjogren’s can occur secondary to another autoimmune condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.  It can also occur by itself.

Systemic problems with Sjogren’s are related to chronic inflammation affecting internal organs such as the peripheral nerves, lungs, kidney, and liver.

One long term complication is the development of lymphoma.

Diagnosis is established with either a minor salivary gland biopsy and/or noting the presence of antibodies to Ro and La in the blood.

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