"Sjögren's Keep Me on the Sidelines? No Way!"

TV sportscaster Jeannine Edwards shares how she took charge of the autoimmune disorder behind her mysterious symptoms—and why she'll never ignore her body's red flags again.

Gina Roberts-Grey
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Photograph by Scott Lewis

Fortunately, Jeannine's only current symptom is extreme dry eyes. "But that's been enough," she says. "I've tried various medications and regularly use steroid eyedrops. I've also had my tear ducts plugged and cauterized to try to prevent moisture evaporation." Jeannine hasn't found relief yet, but she continues to work with her doctors and seek out new treatments for autoimmune-related dry eye.

Although her symptoms never interfered with her broadcasting duties, Jeannine kept quiet about her condition for years. "Most people don't know what it is, so it's really not something I ever put out there," she says. But these days, the reporter is opening up about her experience and encouraging others to be proactive about any symptom. "I could have saved myself two years of suffering," notes Jeannine. "Talking to your doctor at the first sign of a problem is the best way to avoid the agony of dealing with symptoms that could've easily been treated."

Have RA or lupus? Look out for Sjögren's too!
If you already have an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or lupus, you are at greater risk of developing Sjögren's. So if you start experiencing dry eyes or a cottony mouth, alert your doctor. While these symptoms are often easily explained (medications such as antidepressants and antihistamines are common culprits), it's important to rule out more serious causes. Left untreated, Sjögren's can lead to complications like tooth decay, oral infections and corneal scratches on the eye, which could result in vision loss. It can also lead to nerve pain and even affect certain organs. The good news? When caught early, the disease can be kept in check with medication and regular eye and dental care.|

Bothered by dry, irritated eyes? Try Jeannine's tips!

Shield yourself from bad weather. Cold, windy days are a challenge. "It's hard to take the dog for a walk or go out to the barn to see my horses," she says. Her simple solution? Welder's glasses! "They're plastic, wraparound safety glasses that cut the wind when walking your dog or even doing things like gardening."

Give your eyes a bedtime treat. "At the end of a long workday, my eyes are aching and in need of relief," says Jeannine, who uses a homemade hot compress that increases oil secretions. "They're like beanbags that you can warm up in the microwave, and they conform to the eyes much better than a warm washcloth." To make, just fill a nylon stocking with a cup of uncooked rice, then tie a yarn or ribbon right above the rice.

Use the right makeup. Excessive tearing can cause mascara to smear and run. "That's not a good look on television!" says Jeannine, who wears waterproof eye makeup and avoids further irritation by using only fragrance-free facial products.

Control indoor air. "My eyes tear even if I'm indoors. It's much worse in the winter, when the air is dry and cold." To head off problems, Jeannine runs a humidifier in her house year round. She stays away from fans, too. "I don't use ceiling fans, and I never, ever blow the heat or air-conditioning through vents that aim toward my face in the car."

March 2013