There’s no doubt about it, dryness and winter go together almost as well as a hat and gloves. Our skin is a little more dry, our hair is a little duller, and our eyes just feel more irritable. Eyes tend to get the brunt of the harsh weather; we bundle up our hands, feet, heads, and bodies with winter gear, but we don’t usually think about eye protection in the winter.

Dry eyes can be something of an irritant to those who struggle, but they can also become something worse than a simple annoyance. So, how can you tell if you’re suffering from a case of winter dry eyes or if it’s something more, like Sjogren’s Syndrome’ Let’s start with understanding the difference.

Sjogren’s (pronounced show-grins) is an autoimmune  disorder that causes inflammation and damage to particular areas of the body, particularly the tear and saliva glands. This inflammation causes dryness and irritation. What happens with Sjogren’s is that your immune system, which helps fight bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks the glands that produce moisture like saliva, sweat, tears, and even breast milk. 

It’s really important to understand and identify the symptoms of Sjogren’s so that you can visit a doctor if necessary. This disorder is easy to overlook. Due to the lack of moisture-producing exocrine glands, your eyes become exceedingly dry and it’s a chronic problem. One way doctor’s can diagnose Sjogren’s is through your tears. The composition of tears is different and no longer adequately protects the ocular surface.

Sjogren’s is a life-long diagnosis but it’s relatively easy to treat. You can use eye drops to rewet your eyes and anti-inflammatory drugs are also an option. It’s also critical to drink plenty of fluid in between meals to decrease the symptoms.

Dry eyes can be caused by a variety of different things. They can be weather related, due to a particular pharmaceutical, or even from contact lenses. It’s important to understand and identify symptoms of dry eyes to determine if something more serious could be happening. Contact us at Pinecone Vision Center for more information.