Systemic Conditions Associated With Dry Eye Disease

In many cases, dry eye disease can be properly managed with the use of anti-inflammatory medications, artificial tears and antibiotics. But the experts at Access Eye have treated patients who do not respond to these treatments and achieve the relief they deserve. Sometimes, it is because dry eye disease is caused or worsened by an underlying systemic disease. Treating the underlying disease is crucial to helping soothe the symptoms of dry eyes. Read on as Access Eye reveals some of the systemic conditions associated with dry eyes.

Sjögren’s Syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that damages the exocrine glands, particularly the salivary and lacrimal glands. The disruption of the lacrimal glands affects tear production, as the glands are responsible for secreting the aqueous (watery) layer of the tear film. Another hallmark symptom of Sjögren’s syndrome is dry mouth, due to interference with the salivary glands.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another autoimmune disorder with a strong link to dry eye is rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system attacks the body’s joints. The same antibodies that damage the joints can target the eyes, interfering with normal tear production.


Sometimes rosacea, a chronic skin disease that causes facial redness, affects the eyes. When this occurs, it is called ocular rosacea, and it can cause symptoms associated with dry eyes: e.g., redness, burning, a foreign body sensation or watering eyes.

Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE)

Approximately one in five people with systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) also have Sjögren’s syndrome, which prevents the lacrimal glands from producing sufficient tears to moisturize the eyes.

Thyroid-related Disorders

At Access Eye, our team also sees cases of dry eye disease in individuals suffering from thyroid-related disorders including Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. These disorders are associated with abnormal production of thyroid hormone, which is responsible for various metabolic processes. Thyroid diseases can cause swelling around the eyes that prevents the eyelids from fully closing; as a result, the eyes can dry out.