If you experience interstitial cystitis and an infection of the eye at the same time, they may be caused by separate conditions or they may be symptomatic of Sjogren's syndrome, a disease that affects the immune system. There are a number of other symptoms to look out for to determine if Sjogren's syndrome is the cause of an eye infection that occurs at the same time as interstitial cystitis.
Interstitial cystitis is a condition in which the walls of the bladder inflame, causing much pain. It causes frequent, uncomfortable and often painful urination, as well as pain during intercourse and pain in the pelvic area. It is often misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection.
There are many different types of eye infections. The membrane of the white of the eye can become infected (conjunctivitis), as well as the eyeball (blepharitis) and the cornea (keratitis), among other locations. Infection can be viral or bacterial, and usually causes inflammation and irritation in the infected area, as well as discharge and dryness or scaling of skin in some cases. If you are experiencing interstitial cystitis and also suffer an infection of the tear duct, causing dry eyes, this may be due to Sjogren's syndrome.
The exact cause of Sjogren's syndrome is unknown. It is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in certain of the glands in the body. The gland at the eye that creates tears often becomes infected, causing swelling, blocking the tears and making the eye dry. If not seen to quickly, the dryness can lead to further infections of the other parts of the eye. Sjogren's syndrome also causes other tissues in the body to inflame; when this happens in the bladder it can lead to interstitial cystitis.
As the causes of Sjogren's syndrome are unknown, there is no cure for the condition. However, the symptoms can be treated. The only approved medication for interstitial cystitis is Elmiron, a medication that lines the inside of the bladder to relieve symptoms. Other therapies that may help interstitial cystitis include bladder hydrodistention, which involves filling the bladder with fluid in order to stretch it (the website HealthCentral states that stretching the nerves in the bladder can provide some relief from pain), and diet modification to remove any foods and drinks that may cause bladder irritation, such as aged cheeses, onions and tofu. Cyclosporine eye drops are designed to reduce the inflammation of infected tear glands. Consult your doctor if you notice a more severe infection affecting the rest of the eye. You may need antibiotics to deal with the problem.
You should contact your doctor immediately if you notice the symptoms of interstitial cystitis and an eye infection. Sjogren's syndrome often causes a dry mouth by infecting the saliva glands. Lung infections are also a rare symptom of the condition. It is also sometimes accompanied by connective tissue diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma.