Although dry eye syndrome is often an isolated condition, it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious health problem, such as systemic or rheumatic disease.
Systemic diseases affect the entire body, while rheumatic diseases are a group of conditions that affect joints, muscles, and bones. Such diseases can cause dry eye syndrome by attacking the tear-producing glands or causing inflammation in the eyes.
An example of a systemic disease that can cause dry eye syndrome is Sjögren’s syndrome. This is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own moisture-producing glands, including those that produce tears. Other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma can also cause dry eye syndrome.
In addition to systemic diseases, some rheumatic diseases can also lead to dry eye syndrome. Ankylosing spondylitis, for example, is a disease that causes inflammation of the spine and can also affect the eyes. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation of the eyes and damage to the lacrimal glands.
If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, it is important to see an ophthalmologist who can determine the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor can perform various tests to check the quality and quantity of your tears, and may also perform blood tests to check for systemic or rheumatic diseases.
If an underlying condition is identified, your doctor may refer you to a specialist such as a rheumatologist or immunologist to manage your treatment. This may include medications to treat the underlying condition, as well as artificial tears, prescription eye drops and other treatments to relieve dry eye syndrome symptoms.
Therefore, if you suffer from dry eye syndrome, you should be aware that it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious health problem. By seeing an ophthalmologist and having the necessary examinations, you can determine the cause of your symptoms and receive appropriate treatment to control your condition and preserve your vision.