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Autoimmune diseases and dry eye

Maladies-auto-immunes
What is an autoimmune disease?

 

An autoimmune disease is a type of disease in which the immune system—which normally protects the body from infection and disease—begins to attack the body’s healthy cells and tissues. It is therefore a dysfunction of the immune system, since this system itself attacks parts of the body.

 

In an autoimmune disease, the immune system loses the ability to distinguish between healthy cells and foreign cells and begins to attack the body’s own cells as if they were all foreign.

 

This can lead to inflammation and tissue damage, which can cause a variety of symptoms and complications, depending on the organ or tissue affected. These diseases can be chronic and often have a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected.

 

There are around a hundred different autoimmune diseases, classified based on the organ affected (skin, glands, joints, pancreas, etc.). In general, it is difficult to estimate the total number of people with autoimmune diseases worldwide because many patients have not been diagnosed.

 

Examples of autoimmune diseases

 

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Scleroderma
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Sjögren’s syndrome
What is the link between autoimmune disease and dry eye?

 

Autoimmune diseases can be associated with dry eye. In these diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues, including the lacrimal glands that produce tears. Dry eye can therefore be a symptom of several diseases.

 

In fact, there are numerous autoimmune diseases that can cause dry eye-related symptoms, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, scleroderma and many others. These diseases can all affect the lacrimal glands, leading to insufficient tear production and symptoms of dry eye.

 

For example, one of the most well-known autoimmune diseases that causes dry eye is Sjögren’s syndrome. It is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterised by mucosal dryness. It affects the salivary and lacrimal glands, leading to decreased production of saliva and tears.

 

A few tips to limit dry eye

 

Dry eye can cause annoying and uncomfortable symptoms. Below are some tips to help limit it:

 

  1. Use lubricating eye drops. Eye drops are an easy way to relieve dry eye in the short term. They hydrate the eyes and help reduce irritation. It is important to choose preservative-free eye drops, as preservatives can irritate the eyes.

 

  1. Take regular breaks if you work at a screen. If you spend a lot of time in front of a screen, whether on your computer, phone or tablet, take regular breaks to allow your eyes to rest and rehydrate. The 20-20-20 rule can help: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet (about 6 metres) away for at least 20 seconds.

 

  1. Use a humidifier. If you live in a dry environment, a humidifier can help hydrate the air and reduce dry eye.

 

  1. Avoid drafts. Drafts can dry your eyes, so try to move away from sources of air, such as fans and air conditioners.

 

  1. Protect your eyes. If you spend time outdoors, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from wind, sun and dust.

 

  1. Drink enough water. Adequate hydration is essential to maintain healthy eyes. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day (between 1.5 and 2 litres per day).

 

  1. Consult an ophthalmologist. If your dry eye persists despite these preventive measures, consult an ophthalmologist for appropriate treatment.
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