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Sjogren's Syndrome

Woman talking medication | Healthier Me TodaySjogren’s syndrome is an Autoimmune disease that affects the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands. The moisture-secreting glands, when damaged, don’t produce enough moisture, which causes dry eyes and dry mouth. The autoimmune condition is uncomfortable and is also more common in women. However, anyone can be diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome. Typically, this autoimmune disease is found in people over 40, but anyone can be diagnosed.

Causes

The only cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks your body’s healthy cells and tissue, starting with the glands that secrete the moisture in your eyes and mouth. As a result, people with this condition have trouble seeing because their eyes are left defenseless and dry out. The condition is also painful. 

The exact science as to why people develop Sjogren’s syndrome is unknown. Unlike other immune disorders, no one has found a clear link between mutated genes. In addition, there are no clear links between family members with this condition as it may or may not be hereditary. While the causes are still unknown, the symptoms are not.

Symptoms

Some of the more common symptoms experienced by people with Sjogren’s syndrome are:

  • Liver Damage
  • Thyroid Gland Damage
  • Arthritis
  • Dry Skin
  • Joint Pain and Swelling

Complications

If the condition worsens, there is a strong likeliness that severe health conditions can occur. One particular complication is the formation of cavities and other dental diseases.

When there is less saliva to protect the outer layer of each tooth, it brings in more bacteria which causes holes in a person’s teeth. Cavities are painful and can worsen needing a root canal. 

There are also health conditions associated with a person’s eyes. For example, an individual with Sjogren’s syndrome may develop cataracts or corneal damage, and both of these conditions can lead to full or partial blindness over time.

Diagnosis

The only way to safely diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome is with a doctor and the proper testing. One of the most common tests is an Eye test to measure tear production. A doctor stimulates the glands to release tears while catching them with a paper underneath the person’s eyes.

While blood tests are also common, they are not always conclusive. As a result, doctors may instead use blood tests to eliminate the possibility of other health conditions that share the same symptoms.

A Biopsy test is a next step for diagnosing Sjogren’s syndrome. During a biopsy, the doctor takes tissue samples from a person’s mouth that produce the saliva. They check for damage but don’t specify why. The results can help your doctor diagnose you.

Treatment

Sadly, like many other autoimmune diseases, there is no way to cure Sjogren’s syndrome. Instead, the symptoms can be relieved and managed. Unfortunately, the disease is chronic and flares up with stressors like smoke and allergies.

However, medication can increase the liquid production in a person’s eye. Therefore, it needs to be prescribed by a doctor and does come with side effects. One specific medication is Salagen- which increases both tears and saliva. Side effects do occur, including late-night sweating and digestive pain. Not everyone can consume pills or liquid medication, though.

A doctor may also recommend using eye drops. If your eyes are dry, your doctor may also recommend eye drops daily to decrease the chances of trauma, infections, and blindness. Eye drops also mimic the moisture in your eye, which protects your eye from scratches. You can find these drops in local drug stores and corner shops as no prescription is necessary.


FAQs

  1. Are there different types of Sjogren’s syndrome? Unfortunately, yes! There are technically two different types of Sjogren’s syndrome: primary and secondary. People with primary Sjorgren’s syndrome do not have any underlying causes or other autoimmune system conditions. On the other hand, people who have the secondary type already have a diagnosed autoimmune disease.
  2. Why is moisture in the eyes and mouth important? The moisture acts as a protective barrier, so it would be easy for dirt, debris, or dust to get into a person’s eyes. The mouth needs moisture to protect teeth and as a biological reaction.

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!

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