Sjogren’s syndrome is a kind of immune system disorder causing dryness of eyes and mouth. The syndrome usually comes with other disorders of the immune system, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Discretion of tears and saliva is the result of the affected mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth. The condition is mostly found in people older than 40 years old and more common in women. However, it can occur at any age as well. The aim of the treatment is to relieve the symptoms.
The two specific symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are:
- Dry eyes
The eyes may also feel burn, itchy or gritty.
- Dry mouth
People with Sjogren’s syndrome may have difficulty swallowing or speaking due to the full of cotton-like feeling in the mouth.
Sjogren’s syndrome may lead to other symptoms including:
- Dry skin
- Shin rashes
- Joint pain, swelling and stiffness
- Vaginal dryness
- Chronic dry cough
- Prolonged fatigue
- Swollen salivary glands especially in the area behind the jaw and in front of the ears
Sjogren’s syndrome is a kind of an autoimmune disorder. The body’s cells and tissues are mistakenly attacked by the immune system. The glands that provide tears and saliva are firstly targeted by the immune system. Other parts of the body can be also damaged including: joints, skin, thyroid, kidney, liver, lungs and nerves.
The risk factors of Sjogren’s syndrome may include:
People at the age of 40 or above have the higher risk of the syndrome.
Sjogren’s syndrome tends to occur in women more than men.
- Rheumatic disease
People with Sjogren’s syndrome tend to be involved with rheumatic disease.
According to the effect to eyes and mouth, the complications of Sjogren’s syndrome might include:
- Vision problems
Sjogren’s syndrome causes dryness of the eyes which may lead to sensitivity of light, blurred vision and corneal damage.
- Yeast infections
Oral thrush tends to be developed in people with sjogren’s syndrome.
- Dental cavities
The reduction of saliva causes the dryness in the mouth leading the ability of defending the bacteria to be decreased. This may cause a higher chance of developing cavities in the mouth.
Sjogren’s syndrome may less commonly affect:
- Lymph nodes
including lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes
- Lungs, kidney or liver
The inflammation may cause the problems of the lung, kidney function as well as hepatitis or cirrhosis in the liver.
People with Sjogren’s syndrome may experience numbness, tingling and burning in hands and feet.
Because the signs and symptoms of sjogren’s syndrome is varied in individuals, there might be some difficulties to diagnose. Also, signs and symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome could be the side effects of several medications.
To diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome, the doctor may conduct some tests including:
- Blood tests
The aims of blood tests is to look for:
- Evidence of inflammatory conditions
- Levels of different kinds of blood cells
- Appearance of antibodies that commonly found in Sjogren’s syndrome
- Signs of liver and kidney problems
- Eye tests
The doctor may conduct a test called a Schirmer tear test to measure the dryness of the eyes and look for the damage of the cornea.
- Image tests
The doctor may use some kind of image test to check for the function of salivary glands.
- Sialogram is able to show the amount of saliva flowing into the mouth.
- Salivary scintigraphy is able to show the speed of a nuclear medicine injected arriving in all of the salivary glands.
An appearance of clusters of inflammatory cells will be detected by a lip biopsy.
Treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome differs from the part of the body affected. Some symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome might be relieved by eyedrops or frequent sipping water. However, some people may need some medical treatments including; medications, surgical procedures and change of lifestyle and home treatment.
The doctor may prescribe some medications to:
- increase the production of saliva
- decrease eye inflammation
- relieve specific complications
- treat other related symptoms
- Surgical procedures
To relieve the dry eyes, the doctor may suggest a minor procedure to seal the tear ducts which drain tears from the eyes.
Change of lifestyle and home treatment
Change of lifestyle and home treatment are considered helpful for people with Sjogren’s syndrome.
- To relieve dryness of the eyes:
- Use an eye lubricant or artificial tears either individually or alone.
- Increase indoor humidity
- To relieve dryness of the mouth:
- Quit smoking.
- Consume more fluids.
- Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol.
- Avoid acidic beverages such as colas and some sport drinks.
- Encourage saliva flow such as by having sugarless gum or candies.
- Try saliva replacement products.
- Use nasal saline spray.
- Avoid hot water when bathing and showering to prevent the problem of dry skin.
- Pat your skin with towel instead of rubbing
- Apply moisturizer throughout the skin including face, body and vagina.
- Use rubber gloves when doing dish or house cleaning
- Promote oral health by; brushing teeth after every meal, having dental check every six months and using fluoride treatments daily.
Preparing for the appointment
Before your appointment, you may prepare a list that includes:
- The symptoms in detail
- Current and past medical problems either of yourself and family members
- Details of medications and dietary supplements you are consuming
- Questions that you want to ask the doctor
- Questions about Sjogren’s syndrome that may include:
- the cause of the symptoms?
- the tests that may required
- recommended treatment
- the period of the symptoms to be improved
- long-term complications
- other health conditions
During the consulting, the doctor may ask some questions including the information such as:
- whether the symptoms get worse throughout the day or as going outdoor
- your chronic conditions such as arthritis or high blood pressure
- recently consuming of new medications
- the history of any family member having rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or a similar disease