Here I will discuss the symptoms and treatments of Sjorgren's syndrome and how I manage this condition. I will show how this condition can mimic other conditions like Fibromyalgia and why it is important to be diagnosed correctly.
What is Sjorgren's Syndrome?
Sjögren's syndrome, pronounced 'show-grins' is so named after a Swedish Ophthalmologist Henriik Sjogren (1899-1986) who was the first to identify the condition.
Sjorgren's syndrome is a chronic disorder of the immune system, an autoimmune condition in which white blood cells attack moisture producing glands in the body causing the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy part's of the body that normally produces fluids like saliva or tears. This can create symptoms of a persistent dry mouth which can lead to a dry cough and tooth decay, sore throat, difficulty speaking, dry eyes, dry skin and vaginal dryness.
With Sjorgren's the body's immune system which would normally defend our bodies against infections is causing damage to healthy parts of our body.
Primary Sjorgren's means that it starts alone and there is no other condition involved, or secondary Sjorgren's, which has developed in addition with other autoimmune disorders such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Sjorgren's can start at any age but is more commonly diagnosed in women over the age of 40 and many men are often under diagnosed.
Sjorgren's Syndrome Versus Fibromyalgia
With Sjorgren's Syndrome the immune system can attack other parts of the body causing symptoms similar to Fibromyalgia and include;
Stiffness and inflammation of joints
Peripheral neuropathy or pain and tingling in the arms
Swollen painful salivary glands under the jaw
Vasculitis, which is inflammation of blood vessels
How is Sjorgren's Sydrome Diagnosed?
A Rheumatologist has the responsibility of diagnosing, testing and treatment of Sjorgren's and can ask the right questions about symptoms.
Sjorgren's syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can mimic other autoimmune conditions. Certain medications can also mimic symptoms of Sjorgren's so your rheumatologist can do tests which can help to rule out other conditions.
Your doctor can do blood tests to look for the presence of antibodies which is common with Sjorgren's and they can look for evidence of inflammatory conditions which have similar symptoms.
A Shirmer tear test can be performed which is piece of filter paper placed on the edge of your eyes to test your tear production.
Treatment for Sjorgren's Syndrome
Although there is no cure for Sjorgren's syndrome, eye drops and ointment can be used for the eyes to keep them moist. These can be bought without prescription but should be used with care as eye drops can cause problems with the eyes if used frequently.
A saliva stimulating gel can be bought from the pharmacy for putting in your mouth to keep it moist.
Chewing a sugar free gum can help with a dry mouth and if you can suck on an ice cube that can help.
Practise good oral hygiene and clean the teeth at least twice a day. Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Regular check ups at the dentist will be needed to check for tooth decay.
Diet is important with Sjorgren's and needs to be rich in fruits, vegetable's and lean protein. It is best to avoid alcohol, processed foods, gluten and dairy products and drink plenty of water.
Sjogren's Syndrome Experience
I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Sjorgren's Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Raynauds fifteen years ago after struggling with chronic joint pains, fatigue and other problems for many years without diagnosis.
When I have a Sjorgren's flare I struggle to open my eyes in the mornings. The first time I really noticed it, I could not open my eyes at all because my eye sockets were so dry and my eyeballs were rolled to the back of my head. I eventually opened my eyes but they felt like they had grit in them and my vision was blurred. I use eye drops to keep my eyes moist and at night I use an eye ointment before going to sleep.
My mouth gets very dry and when I wake up in the morning my throat is dry and causes me to have an horrendous sore throat which makes it difficult to swallow. I use a saliva creating gel which can be bought at a chemist or prescribed by your doctor.
The glands under my jaw are often swollen and tender and are sore to the touch. I also experience tingling pains down my arms due to nerve damage and stiffening joint pains which affect my feet, legs arms and hands.
I have digestion problems and avoid gluten, dairy, processed foods and sugars which has all helped my stomach from bloating and being in pain. I stick to an anti inflammatory diet.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Sjorgren's I have mentioned here it is better to get a proper diagnosis. Sjorgren's is a serious condition that needs proper management and treatment to prevent tissue damage and further complications. Do not ignore the symptoms of Sjorgren's even if they seem mild. Also remember that a dry mouth and dry eyes does not always mean that you have Sjorgren's syndrome.
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on October 24, 2021:
I feel for you Pamela with all these conditions. I have given up with prescribed treatments as I seem to have adverse reactions to them all. I am having Sjogren's flare right now and that's why I wrote about it, to distract myself. I appreciate your comment Pamela so thank you for reading. I wish you all the best and hope you are well.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 24, 2021:
This is a very good article, Louise. I have Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Sjorgren's Syndrome and Fibromyalgia also, which has led to a multitude of other problems, somewhat due to the tough treatments for lupus. I spend a fortune at the dentist now, and I have always taken good care of my teeth. I wish you the best and hope your health will be improving.