Evidence Supports Increased Screening of Dry Eye Patients for Sjögren’s Syndrome

In 2012, the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation (SSF) announced a major initiative to reduce the time it takes to receive a Sjögren’s diagnosis by 50%. At present, the average time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis is over 5 years, which delays treatment and can lead to prolonged discomfort and increased complications for patients. To achieve this goal, the SSF is promoting greater awareness among health-care providers about this illness. Here’s some good news in support of their efforts:  a recent research study concluded that patients treated for dry eye should also be screened for Sjögren’s syndrome.  

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s own immune system attacks their moisture-producing glands. Typical symptoms include dry eyes and dry mouth; although other organ systems can be involved, including the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Fatigue and join pain can also occur. Many of our BFS patients with Sjögren’s have successfully achieved eye symptom relief and vision restoration with BostonSight® PROSE treatment.

Dry eye is one of the hallmarks of Sjögren’s syndrome. Although it is estimated that dry eye affects more than 10 million people in the U.S., not all of them have Sjögren’s syndrome. New evidence suggests that individuals who are being treated for clinically significant dry eye should also be screened for Sjogren’s syndrome. Increased screening and diagnosis can lead to earlier health-care intervention and improved quality of life for patients. In December of 2012, The British Journal of Ophthalmology published a research study  that assessed the prevalence and predictors of Sjögren’s syndrome in patients with aqueous-deficient dry eye (lacrimal glands fail to produce enough of the watery component of tears). In this study of 327 patients being treated for dry eye, nearly one-quarter received a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome, providing an indication of the prevalence of Sjögren’s syndrome within this patient population. As a result, researchers concluded that ophthalmologists treating patients for clinically significant dry eye should strongly consider screening for Sjögren’s syndrome in the course of their dry eye treatment.

Previous studies looking at the occurrence of Sjögren’s syndrome in patients with dry eye have been scarce.  These new study results provide solid data for increasing screening rates for this patient population and, in turn, help promote the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation’s goal to reduce time to diagnosis by increasing awareness of this illness among ophthalmologists.

If you have Sjögren’s syndrome, how long did you experience symptoms before your diagnosis? Please share your story here with us.