Friday, 25 September 2015

My Sjogren's Syndrome Onset Story

Thinking back, I remember when I started to have eye problems about 10 years ago. When I got home from work my eyes felt so sore that I would have to lie down and keep my eyes shut for 20 to 30 minutes. When I opened them they would feel good for a while but overall just kept getting worse. 

Eyes half shut

Sunlight made me squint till my eyes were almost shut, and I started to find myself was sitting in front of my computer screen with my eyes half shut so that I could manage to keep on reading. This was a poor solution so I started to go to bed really early since my eyes hurt when I watched TV, read or used my computer. With RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) that meant almost all of the things I did outside of work were causing problems.

Working was also getting difficult. I heard that daylight bulbs in office fixtures were better for eyes, so I had my neon lights changed. The air conditioning was a problem because of the airflow so I turned off the AC outlet over my desk.

It was getting frustrating that all these changes actually made no lasting difference. Finally I went to see my trusted optometrist, who told me I had dry eye. He gave me eye drops but using them as often as I needed to was a nuisance, and did not help enough.

Dry eye and dry mouth

It will surprise no one on social media that I started to google symptoms of health problems connected with dry eye, and when I found the term Sjogren's Syndrome it seemed that I had a match, especially when I found that 25% or more of people with RA developed Sjogren's Syndrome.

The Sjogren's community that my searches led me to is called Sjogren's World. It is a large and strong community with 'expert patients' as moderators. There must be 250,000 posts and replies and through searching and asking questions I soon had a lot of answers.

Finally I was able to see my rheumatologist. When I asked him if I might have Sjogren's, I think he said that half of his patients had Sjogren's. There's a clinic where I live that has a very long waiting list; He said that he could send me there if I wanted to see a lot of doctors, but put that way, I did not want to sound needy so I said no.

When I asked if I could try a prescription drug to stimulate more saliva because of dry mouth and choking he agreed it was worth a try, and I got a referral to an opthalmologist as well. Through reading and talking to a friend I had the name of a doctor who specializes in dry eye, so that's the doctor who finally helped me with the eye problems.

Eye drops and gels. Ready for dryness!

That was actually a fast diagnosis. It was less than a year after I noticed the problem that I had a name for it. Typically people see 3 doctors and it takes 2 1/2 years to find out you have it. 

I've written many posts about Sjogren's Syndrome. I am now a board member of The Sjogren's Society of Canada and attend the conferences regularly. This post titled "immune System Gone Wild" was among the firstof the series and has some hints about management if you want to know more. Most of the treatments are not cures; managing symptoms is often the only choice.

There are a few prescription medications which help, but it's like other autoimmune diseases and has no cure.

Wikimedia Commons Rue des Pyrenees

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