Top 5 Must-Have Products for Dry Eye | Sjogren’s Syndrome Series

Woman who suffers from dry eye disease Sjogren’s Syndrome uses eyedrops to relief dry eye symptoms. Image courtesy of Verywell Health.

As many of my subscribers know, I have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome. One of the main symptoms of Sjogren’s is dry eyes, among many other things.

While those who don’t have dry eyes may not think that it’s a big deal, us dry eye sufferers know that even a small amount of eye dryness can wreck havoc on your health and lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic dry eyes can cause an array of issues, including discomfort and irritation, which could feel like burning, itching or like an eyelash or other foreign object is stuck in your eye. Other symptoms include blepharitis (meibomian gland dysfunction), eyelids turning inwards (ectropion) or outwards (entropion), eye infections, eye inflammation, corneal ulcers and other eye abrasions. In severe cases, dry eye can even result in vision loss.

That’s why it’s imperative that if you suffer from dry eye, that you find ways to ensure your eyes are adequately hydrated so that you can minimize the impact of dry eye symptoms. In this blog post, I wanted to share the products that have worked for me in helping to reduce my Sjogren’s-related dry eye symptoms.

1. Artificial Tears

One of the main products that I use daily for dry eye relief are artificial tears. These over-the-counter eyedrops are similar to the ones that can be found in a small bottle, but instead, they’re packaged in individual vials and are preservative-free.

When I was first diagnosed with Sjogren’s, my ophthalmologist recommended that if I was using eyedrops more than four times a day, it was imperative that I use a preservative-free eye drop brand to reduce the possibility for a toxic or allergic reaction to the preservatives. As a result, I now exclusively use preservative-free artificial tears. There are many over-the-counter brands available, but my favorite by far is Refresh Artificial Tears.

Refresh Plus Eye Drops -Preservative-free- Soothing Relief- Single-use Vials

2. Eye Mask/Heat Compress

During my ongoing battle with dry eye disease, I developed a condition called blepharitis. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, in which they can become swollen, itchy, red, and irritated.

As a result, I frequently use heat compresses on my eyelids to relieve the swelling and inflammation. By using a face towel soaked in warm water, I was able to not only decrease the swelling, but also to clean my eyelids, which can become even more clogged with dandruff-like scales when you have blepharitis.

More recently, my ophthalmologist recommended that I look into purchasing a Bruder mask, which are eye pads that can be easily heated up in your microwave oven, and then placed on your eyelids. This spa-like heat compress is both washable and reusable.

Bruder Moist Heat Eye Compress | Microwave Activated. Relieves Dry Eye

3. Eyelid Scrub

In an effort to further reduce the blepharitis symptoms I experience, I also use an eyelid scrub. The specific brand I use is called OcuSoft Lid Scrub, and it comes in a variety of types, from regular wipes to a ‘plus’ formula for those with extra sensitive eyes. The lid scrub helps to remove any debris stuck in my eyelids and eyelashes, which helps to further decrease the swelling and irritation that I experience as a Sjogren’s patient.

If you don’t like using individual wipes, OcuSoft also offers a pump option so that you can pump the eyelid scrub directly into your hand and wash your eyes with it. This makes it easy to incorporate into your daily wash-and-go routine.

OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Pre-Moistened Pads

4. Humidifier

The next must-have item for dry eye patients is a humidifier. A humidifier is an indoor device that releases a humidifying mist into the air, to help increase the moisture levels in your immediate environment. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know humidifiers existed until I moved to the Southwest United States – here in the desert-like climate, everyone seems to have one!

Humidifiers are great because they don’t involve applying something directly to your eyes. They’re also easy to refill with water, and you can buy a large one for a big room, or a smaller one that sits on your desk for your home office or bedside table. Plus, you don’t need to leave it on all day long – I find just running my humidifier for 20 minutes makes my immediate space comfortable enough that I don’t need to use it for the rest of the day. Some patients find that turning on their humidifier at night helps them to sleep comfortably, since eyes tend to be drier at night, when your tear glands decrease tear production while you’re asleep.

Crane Drop Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

5. Omega-3 Supplements

While the exact effects of vitamins and minerals on eye health are up for debate, many years ago, my optometrist at the time did recommend taking omega-3 fish oil supplements daily for my eye health. He explained to me that while dry eye is often a tear production issue, it could also be a tear evaporation issue. This is because another component of healthy tears is having a sufficient high-quality oil, called meibum, in the water layer of your eye’s surface to prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly.

Based on his recommendation, I take omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil. The supplements are over-the-counter rapid release soft gels from my local pharmacy- nothing too fancy, but they do the job!

Beyond using these five products, there are other initiatives I’m taking to reduce my dry eyes; for example, I’m getting the punctal plugs re-inserted into my tear ducts next month (after one fell out). However, these five products alone have made a big difference in improving my quality of life with Sjogren’s Syndrome and dry eye disease, and I hope that they work for you too.

Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil (360mcg of Omega-3) Rapid Release Softgels

Remember, always talk to your doctor before beginning a new medication, regimen, or treatment plan. Please read Autoimmune Warrior’s product recommendations disclaimer on our About Us page regarding our participation in Amazon’s Associates Program.

My New Hidradenitis Suppurativa Treatment Plan

Last year, I switched health insurance plans, and as a result, the dermatologist that I was seeing to treat my hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) was no longer in-network. So, I had to find a new physician. I found a new dermatologist in my area that was covered under my health insurance plan, so I made an appointment and saw her for the first time last week.

My last physician – who diagnosed me with this chronic autoimmune skin condition – had been treating my hidradenitis by giving me cortisone (steroid) injections. While this was effective to control the inflammation and pain caused by my HS boils, it wasn’t really a long-term solution. I had also been prescribed clindamycin lotion to put on my hidradenitis lesions after showering, and over-the-counter Hibiclens, a wash that medical staff use to ‘scrub in’ in order to prevent any infections from occurring. However, neither of these topical solutions have gotten rid of my HS boils.

My new dermatologist was very caring, and didn’t rush me at all. She suggested that I use a new topical solution called resorcinol. Resorcinol is not covered by my health insurance, since it’s not made by a typical pharmacy, but rather, a compounding facility. While this is a downside, I did some research about the medication, and according to the Journal of the American Academy for Dermatology (JAAD), a 2010 study found that when patients with Hurley stage I or II HS used topical 15% resorcinol twice daily for 30 days, they saw a ‘marked decrease in pain and mean duration of the lesions’.

Below are the side-by-side results from the study. The first left-side image (A) is the patient’s baseline state, the second (B) is seven days into treatment, and the third image (C) is 30 days into the treatment. The right-side images (D, E, and F) are the respective lesions shown via ultrasonography.

Image courtesy of the JAAD (Journal of the American Academy for Dermatology).

Beyond the resorcinol, I spoke with my dermatologist about a medication called spironolactone for hidradenitis suppurativa treatment. Spironolactone is commonly used to treat acne and other similar skin disorders. Although HS is sometimes referred to as ‘acne inversa’, anyone with the condition knows that it’s not acne – not even close! That being said, HS may be similar to acne in the sense that it may be affected by hormones. Plus, a 2017 study of 46 women with HS found that acne and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) were the most commonly reported comorbidities with hidradenitis. The same study found that spironolactone was effective, even in small doses, for managing patients’ pain and inflammatory lesions.

Though I haven’t decided whether or not to move forward with spironolactone treatment yet, I thought it was interesting that there was a potential connection between HS and hormones, especially since I myself have adult acne and have had multiple ovarian cysts in the past. Plus, I have Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that may also have a hormonal component. I do notice that my hidradenitis boils do worsen on a pre-menstrual basis.

I also discussed with my dermatologist getting laser hair removal in the areas most commonly affected by HS – the groin and underarms. She did say that laser hair removal does help with the follicular occlusion aspect of the disease. Obviously, there are drawbacks – for example, laser hair removal is almost impossible to do in patients with Hurley stage III of the disease, because it’s simply too painful. It’s also not usually covered by insurance, since it’s considered a cosmetic procedure, rather than a medical one. But, it’s another option that I want to consider since I’m still at stage I of the disease, and would rather have laser hair removal than wide-excision surgery.

Do you have hidradenitis suppurativa? If so, what treatments have been most effective for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Toni Braxton Opens Up About Battle with Lupus

Award-winning singer Toni Braxton, 53, has struggled with the autoimmune condition lupus for over a decade.
Award-winning singer Toni Braxton, 53, has struggled with the autoimmune condition lupus for over a decade. (Photo courtesy of Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Legendary singer and songwriter Toni Braxton sat down with publication The Grio to detail her ongoing battle with systemic lupus erythematosus, known as lupus for short. The seven-time Grammy award winner was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease in 2008, after she suffered a heart attack on stage during a live performance in Las Vegas.

“The doctors told me I could never perform again. I have systemic lupus. My lupus loves my heart. It loves my microvascular system. It loves my blood, so I get blood clots,” she explained. “The chronic pain and fatigue associated with it were overwhelming for me initially.”

The autoimmune condition affects more than 5 million people worldwide, including 1.5 million Americans. Lupus is known to affect the body’s major organs, including the heart, lungs, skin and more. Beyond the physical symptoms, however, Braxton said the disease took a toll on her mental health too.

“When I was first diagnosed, I felt that I had no one to help me,” she said. Braxton continued, “I always tried to be vocal and educate people. I remember being afraid and I don’t want anyone to feel that feeling I had.”

Though the condition initially caused her to pause her career, Braxton found relief with CBD, the compound found in medical marijuana, with helping to manage her chronic pain.

“I found that Uncle Bud’s doesn’t have THC, the stuff that makes you high. More importantly, with my body being inflamed and so on, it offers anti-inflammatory properties and for me, I need that.” She continued, “It can change your life because sometimes you just need hope. I’m so glad they finally made it legal. It’s a great thing because of the healing properties for people like myself.”

As for her advice on how to cope with having lupus, Braxton commented: “It’s not your fault. It’s nothing you did. It’s just what it is. It’s just what your body is or has become. There’s nothing you could have done to change it.”

Since her lupus symptoms have improved, she has returned to singing and has released a new album, Spell My Name in August 2020. She’s also been busy filming the reality TV series, Braxton Family Values.