If you've been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren's syndrome and you've been experiencing a lot of eye dryness lately, there's a good chance your eye dryness is yet another symptom of the autoimmune disease. Eye dryness can be frustrating, making it hard to concentrate on tasks. It can also be dangerous, as dry eyes are at an increased risk of developing corneal scratches and infections. You should certainly visit your eye doctor if you're suffering from eye dryness that you believe is autoimmune-related. He or she may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
Punctal plugs are tiny medical devices that are generally made from silicone. They're often used as the first-line treatment for eye dryness since they're non-pharmaceutical and very safe. The plugs are inserted in your tear ducts, where they prevent the tear ducts from re-absorbing tears from the surface of the eye so quickly. Your eye doctor can insert punctual plugs quickly and easily in his or her office – there's no need for surgery. You may feel a tiny bit of pinching while the plugs are being put into place, but after that, you should feel nothing.
You'll be able to tell within a few days whether the plugs are keeping your eyes more moist or not. If they are not functioning as intended, your eye doctor may try using a larger-size plug, or they may recommend one of the other treatments on this list instead.
Medications to Stimulate Tear Production
For some patients, stimulating increased tear production by the lacrimal glands works better than blocking the tear ducts. There are a number of medications your eye doctor may prescribe to increase tear production. Some come in eye drop form, and others come in pill form. They work by suppressing your immune system to reduce the inflammation that's impeding your lacrimal glands' function. Most patients react well to these medications, but others do experience side effects like eye pain, stinging in the eyes, or the feeling of having something in the eyes.
Changes in Drug Protocols For Your Autoimmune Condition
In some cases, your eye doctor may refer you to your regular physician, who can review the medications you're currently taking for your autoimmune condition and suggest changes that may help alleviate your eye dryness. This is especially likely if your other autoimmune symptoms also seem to be flaring up lately. Switching to a different immunosuppressant drug or adjusting your dose may help better manage all of your symptoms, including your eye dryness.
If you're suffering from eye dryness that you think is related to a diagnosed autoimmune disease, don't ignore it. There are simple treatments that can alleviate your discomfort and reduce your risk of complications like infections and corneal scratches.