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July is Dry Eye Awareness Month! 

In 2005, the Sjögren’s Foundation, along with coalition partners, asked Congress to officially declare July as “Dry Eye Awareness Month” to help increase awareness and educate the public about symptoms, treatment options and causes for dry eye.

More than 30 million Americans have symptoms of dry eye disease, but only 16 million are diagnosed. Dry eye is a chronic and progressive disease that can lead to ocular surface discomfort, including feelings of dryness, burning, grittiness, and tearing. In patients with Sjögren's, inflammation in the lacrimal (tear-producing) glands reduces tear production, and results in chronic dry eye. 

Living with Sjögren's patient survey and Dry Eye

For Dry Eye Awareness month, we wanted to take another look at the data related to dry eye and eye-related conditions and symptoms from our 2021 Living with Sjögren’s patient survey. 

Briefly, the Foundation developed the Living with Sjögren’s patient survey to gain insight and better understand the physical, mental, emotional, and financial impact of Sjögren’s. The Foundation published a Summary of Major Findings that provided a comprehensive analysis of the findings and you can find the results at 

From the original analysis, we learned that 95% of patients experience dry eye symptoms with 94% of patients diagnosed with dry eye disease. Patients experience a wide variety of symptoms. Most respondents stated that eight of these symptoms have a major or moderate impact on their life, including: fatigue (79%); dry eyes (75%); dry mouth (73%); joint pain (65%); trouble sleeping (64%) eye discomfort (60%); muscle pain (56%); and brain fog (54%).  Over fifty percent of all respondents reported experiencing the most prevalent 21 symptoms (including dry eyes and eye pain) within the prior 12 months. 

Dry Eye and Eye-Related Conditions 

We dove deeper into what other eye-related symptoms and conditions our patients with a dry eye diagnosis might have. Approximately 44% of patients reported being diagnosed with dry eye and at least one other eye-related condition that includes blepharitis, conjunctivitis, corneal scarring, corneal erosions, corneal ulcers, uveitis, filamentary keratitis, and scleritis/episcleritis. Approximately one-quarter (25%) of respondents reported having dry eye and one other eye-related condition, nine percent (9%) of patients have dry eye and two eye-related conditions, and 10% of patients reported having three or more eye-related conditions.

Dry Eye and Eye-Related Conditions by Age Group 

Among patients with dry eye and at least one eye-related condition, blepharitis (21%) and conjunctivitis (20%) were the most frequently reported diagnosed conditions. Among the 18– to 24-year-old population, the reported incidence of blepharitis (28%)
and conjunctivitis (20%) was as common as in older groups,
suggesting that even our younger persons with Sjögren's should have eye examinations for these conditions. The reported frequency of eye-related conditions increases with age group. Twice as many patients aged 45- to 54 reported corneal conditions like corneal scarring (5.58%) and corneal erosion (4.40%) compared to the 35- to 44-year-old population (2.95% and 2.62%, respectively). Three times as many 65- to 74-year-old patients reported these conditions as compared to 35- to 44-year-olds (9.38% and 9.52%, respectively).

The proportion of older patients reporting three or more eye-related conditions is approximately two and three times greater, respectively, among 55- to 64-year-olds (7.99% and 65- to 74-year-olds (9.22%) when compared to 35- to 44-year-olds (3.61%).

Dry Eye and Eye-Related Symptoms 

Those patients with a dry eye diagnosis were also more likely to have eye fatigue (67% vs. 29%), eye discomfort (79% vs. 33%), and poor, blurred vision (55% vs. 30%) compared to respondents who were not diagnosed with dry eye. The proportion of patients reporting headaches (56% vs 52%) and migraines (30% vs 24%) with a dry eye diagnosis was only slightly higher among patients with dry eye diagnosis than among those without.

The main takeaway from this analysis is that if you or your doctor suspect Sjögren’s, then it is important to prioritize and monitor your eye health— early and over time— with an ophthalmologist.

Learn more about Dry Eye:

The Sjögren's Foundation is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date information for patients, caretakers, and healthcare providers. Here are a few resources on dry eye: