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Johns Hopkins Health - Dry Eyes? Don’t Overlook One Autoimmune Disorder

Winter 2011
Issue No. 11

Dry Eyes? Don’t Overlook One Autoimmune Disorder

Date: January 20, 2011

If you’re middle-aged or older and have significant trouble with dry eyes, you might be suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that affects 4 million Americans, 90 percent of them women.

Dry eyes, of course, can be due to any number of issues—from wind exposure to menopause—but if you’re also experiencing dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain or other seemingly unrelated symptoms, these problems may be part of a systemic illness.

Left untreated, Sjögren’s can lead to serious complications, including kidney disease and lymphoma, says Esen Akpek, M.D., associate director of Johns Hopkins’ Sjögren’s Syndrome Center, which brings together a multidisciplinary team of rheumatologists, neurologists, otolaryngologists, dentists and gynecologists to diagnose and treat the condition.
The good news about Sjögren’s, Akpek says, “is that if it’s treated early, you do get better.”

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