Farrah is a healthcare specialist who specializes in natural ways to improve health .
Sjogren’s Syndrome Symptoms, Cause, Diagnosis, Complications, Diet and Treatments for this Disease
I got to know about sjogren's syndrome a few weeks back and as expected, I was a little confused as to what it was or the proper way to pronounce it the strange-looking term. Of course, a little Google search and its pronunciation tools soon solved this little problems for me.
Sjogren's syndrome (pronounced sho-greens), also goes by the name sicca syndrome and is a long term autoimmune disease. This disorder occurs when your body sees certain cells or tissues in your body as foreign and turns on them, attacking them. This disease occurs in the moisture producing glands of the body, resulting in dryness of these glands. For sjogren's, the attack takes place in the salivary and lacrimal glands, destroying tissues and bringing about symptoms like dry eyes and dry mouth.
While this autoimmune disorder affects primarily the eyes and the mouth, its effects could spread to other organs like gastrointestinal system, joints, kidneys, lungs, thyroid, blood vessels, liver, nervous system, and the pancrease.
How Common is Sjogren's Syndrome?
Sjogren's disorder is more common than most people know as it affects 1 to 4 million people in the United States. It is also quite possible to have this autoimmune disorder and not be aware of it as symptoms are often subtle at the start.
Some Key Facts About Sjogren's Syndrome You Should Know
Here are some important facts about this autoimmune disorder you should know:
1. While this autoimmune disorder can affect anyone, 90% of sufferers are women.
2. Sicca syndrome is also more likely to affect people that are 40 years and above, although cases of it have been reported in younger people.
3. In 50% of cases Sjögren's occurs alone, in other cases it could occur alongside autoimmune disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, or Scleroderma.
4. This disorder is also more common in post menopausal women.
5. Having a family history of sicca syndrome increases your risk of developing it.
6. Symptom of this this disorder differs from person to person and mostly depends on what glands are affected.
7.Two of the most common symptoms for this disorder are dry eyes and a dry mouth.
8. Sjogren's syndrome can affect your lifestyle, however people affected are able to live a normal life.
9. Symptoms of this autoimmune disorder can be very subtle and it could take as long as seven years to get a diagnosis.
10. This autoimmune disorder are of two types: primary (when it occurs alone) or secondary ( when it occurs alongside a few other autoimmune disorders).
What Causes Sjogren's Syndrome?
There is no clear reason as to what causes sicca syndrome; scientists are yet to discover why the immune system turns on itself to attack certain tissues and glands. However, speculations are that there are certain genes that predisposes people to it, increasing their risk of developing it. It is also believed that becoming infected with a strain of bacteria or a particular virus could trigger the onset of this disorder.
What are the Sjögren's Syndrome Symptoms to Look Out for?
The following are symptoms to look out for in the sjogren's autoimmune disorder:
- Dry eyes
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Itchy eyes or a sandy feeling in the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Dry lips (that could sometimes peel)
- Cracked tongue (sometimes with the presence of sores)
- Sore mouth
- Dry cough that refuses to go
- Constant thirst
- Sensitivity to smoke, light and fumes
- Problems when trying to chew or swallow
- Digestive problems
- Recurrent cavities
- Joint pain or swellings
- Dry skin
- Skin rashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Extreme and prolonged fatigue
- Stiffness in the mornings
- Reduced tear production
- Stomach pain
- Frequent UTIs
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Dry nose
How to Diagnose this Disorder: Sjögren's Syndrome Test
Diagnosis of the sicca syndrome is usually not straightforward as your doctor would need to test the particular symptom being presented to arrive at a diagnosis. However, tests that can be employed include:
- A test to measure the saliva and tear flow
- A few blood tests
- A few biopsies
Sjögren's Syndrome Complications
Sufferers of this disorder can expect one or more of the following complications:
- Recurrent Cavities
Sufferers of sjogren's syndrome are at risk of recurrent dental cavities since the saliva which is meant to protect the teeth would be lacking or be available in less than required quantity.
- Yeast Infection
Another complication of the sjogren's syndrome is the likelihood to develop oral thrush of the mouth and frequently too.
- Vision Issues
They may also experience problems like dry eyes, sensitivity to light and damage to the corneal.
- Damage to Some Major Organs in the Body
There is also the risk of damage to some major organs in the body like the kidneys, lungs and the liver. Inflammation from the disorder could cause pneumonia or bronchitis in the lungs, cause problems with kidney function or also lead to hepatitis or cirrhosis in your liver.
- Nerve Damage
You are also likely to have some damage to certain nerves in your hands and foot, leading to numbness and a tingling feeling in these region.
There is also the risk of developing lymphoma, a cancer-type that affects the lymphatic system.
Sjögren's Syndrome Treatment
There is no cure for this disorder and treatment is instead, aimed at bringing you relief from the symptoms of the disease.This autoimmune disorder can be serious, however, timely treatment can prevent tissue damage and eliminate symptoms to bring you relief.
Treatment typically includes the following:
- Eye drop or artificial tears for dry eyes or itchy feelings in the eyes.
- Chewing sugar-free gum can be adopted to stimulate the production of saliva.
- Increasing fluid intake by taking a drink as often as you can, especially when you eat.
- Avoiding foods that are known to irritate the mouth like spicy or acidic foods.
- Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice daily - in the mornings and late at night.
- Quitting unhealthy habits like smoking and alcohol that has been linked to dry skin.
- Avoiding sugary foods and drinks to reduce the chances of tooth decay.
Treatment for More Severe Symptoms
For more severe symptoms drugs known for boosting the production of tears or saliva are introduced to effectively manage the symptoms.
Farrah Young (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on April 11, 2020:
I only got to know of it myself when I started showing one of the symptoms. Thankfully, mine turned out to be an innocent case and not sjogren's itself.
Farrah Young (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on April 11, 2020:
Thanks @Umesh Chandra Bhatt
I'm glad this piece could be of help to you.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 09, 2020:
I had not heard of this before. You have put together an informative article.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 08, 2020:
Very well explained and very informative. Thanks.