- Who Gets It?
- Complications and Side Effects
What is Sjogren's syndrome?
Many people experience dry mouth and eyes every day without knowing there may be an underlying disease as the culprit. Sjogren's syndrome typically manifests as persistent dryness in the eyes and mouth. It may be a signifier or cause of other health conditions, including neurological issues involving memory, fatigue, and focus.
Sjogren's syndrome is a systemic autoimmune disease that is most commonly characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth, though people affected may experience other less-common symptoms. Sjogren's is challenging to diagnose as dry mouth and eyes may seem trivial and easily overlooked.
Diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome requires cooperation between doctors of various disciplines. To be accurately diagnosed, a patient will need consultation from a coordinated team of specialists, including dentists, otolaryngologists, rheumatologists, and ophthalmologists.
Causes of Sjogren's syndrome
Sometimes your immune system can become erratic, resulting in health complications. In the case of Sjogren's syndrome, white blood cells attack the salivary glands and other glands responsible for creating moisture in the mouth and throughout the body.
If this happens, these glands cannot produce the tears, saliva, and other fluids required to maintain a healthy amount of moisture in the body, resulting in dryness. In some cases, dryness may become so severe the affected region splits or tears.
Who can get Sjogren's syndrome?
Sjogren's syndrome is most common in women over the age of 40, though it can affect people of all ages. Sjogren's syndrome is one of the most common systemic autoimmune diseases. One to two million Americans are affected by the disease.
It's not known what causes Sjogren's syndrome, though genetics may play a significant part. It's believed to be the result of an autoimmune reaction to environmental stimuli that promote the disease as a reaction.
Diagnosis for Sjogren's syndrome
It's challenging to diagnose or complete a Sjogren's syndrome test, as many affected don't realize their dry eyes or mouth are symptoms of an underlying disease. Diagnosis methods vary but may involve a salivary gland biopsy, blood test, or antigen test.
Your family physician will need to correlate with doctors from various disciplines to get an accurate Sjogren's syndrome diagnosis, including dentists, otolaryngologists, rheumatologists, and ophthalmologists.
Treatments for Sjogren's syndrome
The most used medications for Sjogren's syndrome are salivary stimulants like Pilocarpine and Cevimeline, immunosuppressants like Hydroxychloroquine, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Some doctors may prescribe artificial tears or anti-inflammatory eye-drops.
People affected by Sjogren's syndrome should maintain a diet rich in foods with anti-inflammatory properties. This will help to reduce dry symptoms and provide relief. Examples of foods and spices to choose from for their anti-inflammatory effects are:
- Colorful fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats, like fish high in omega 3 oils, avocado, and raw nuts and seeds
- Organic meats
- Fibrous foods, such as flax seeds and whole grains
- Spices like turmeric, ginger, or garlic
Those with Sjogren's syndrome should avoid red meat, refined sugar and oils, processed or fried foods, trans or hydrogenated fats, and high glycemic foods.
In some cases, an ophthalmologist will insert tiny silicone plugs called punctal plugs into the tear ducts. The plugs block the tear duct, so tears stay on the eyes and maintain moisture. If punctal plugs are effective in reducing a patient's symptoms, the ophthalmologist may suggest closing the tear ducts permanently with surgery.
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American Family Physician: "Sjogren Syndrome."
Cleveland Clinic: "Sjogren's Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments."
Merck Manuals: "Sjogren Syndrome."
NYU Langone Health: "Medications for Sjogren's Syndrome."
Sjogren's Foundation: "Patient Education Sheet: Anti-Inflammatory Diet."
Sjogren's Foundation: "Symptoms."