Sjogren’s Syndrome

xerostomia dry mouth pictures

What is Sjogren’s Syndrome?

Sjogren’s syndrome is a persistent autoimmune disorder resulting in the white blood cells or leukocytes attacking the glands that produce moisture. This affects the amount of moisture produced resulting in drying of the eyes and mouth.

Sjogren’s syndrome leads to inflammation of the body glands responsible for producing saliva and tears resulting in a decrease in the production of water for tears and saliva. The inflammation of glands producing saliva leads to Sjogren’s syndrome dry mouth and lips whereas an inflammation of glands in the eyes producing tears causes dry eyes.

At times Sjogren’s syndrome occurs in combination with some other autoimmune connective tissue disorder like lupus, scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis. And at other times it is noticed alone without any signs of association with other diseases. Based on this, Sjogren’s syndrome is usually classified as Primary Sjogren’s syndrome and Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome.

Nearly 90% of the individuals affected with Sjogren’s syndrome are women.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Symptoms

Since it’s a systemic disorder, the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are not limited to a particular part or organ of the body. Changes can be seen throughout the body. The different ways in which Sjogren’s syndrome can affect the body are as follows:

  • Dry eyes, corneal infections and ulcerations. Also noticed are symptoms like burning, gritty or dry sensations in the eyes.
  • Dry mouth, dental decay and mouth ulcers are the common symptoms of this syndrome. Chewing of food gets difficult in addition problems related to taste, dentures and speech.
  • The tongue turns sour and cracked. There is a dry or burning sensation in the throat.
  • The lips start peeling or turn dry.
  • Neurological problems including loss of memory or concentration.
  • The nose gets dry and starts bleeding at regular intervals. Recurring sinusitis is also an indication of Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • Heartburn
  • Reflux esophagitis
  • Dry skin
  • Vasculitis and Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Sjogren’s syndrome also leads to Arthritis and muscle pains.
  • Recurring bronchitis, interstitial lung disease and pneumonia.
  • Stomach disorders, pancreatitis and gastro paresis.
  • Joint pains
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme conditions of numbness and tingling of limbs.
  • The liver functioning is affected.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Sjogren’s Syndrome Causes

The cause leading to development of Sjogren’s syndrome is not yet known. However, few recent scientific studies and observations have pointed the cause as genetic factors. Individuals with family medical histories of varying autoimmune diseases like type-1 diabetes, thyroid disorders and systemic lupus erythematosus are at higher risk of developing the syndrome at some stage of life. Another suspected cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is environmental factors in combination with genetics.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Pictures

Picture 1 : Sjogren’s Syndrome symptoms (dry mouth and dry eyes)

xerostomia dry mouth picturesPicture 2 : Xerostomia (dry mouth)


Sjogren’s Syndrome Diagnosis

As in most of the health disorders, an early detection of Sjogren’s syndrome helps prevent any further complications. However, it’s very difficult to reach the final diagnosis for Sjogren’s syndrome as it takes an average of 6-7 years after the initial attack for the symptoms or signs to point something clearly.

The signs of Sjogren’s syndrome are quite similar to those of other diseases like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome. The major symptoms noticed in this syndrome, dry mouth and dry eyes, too are common with other illnesses making the diagnosis even more complicated.

There isn’t one particular test that may confirm the diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome. Some of the blood tests usually recommended include Rheumatoid factor, anti-nuclear antibody, SS-A, SS-B, immunoglobulin and Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Other than these, ophthalmologic tests like Schirmer test and Rose Bengal and Lissamine Green.

Salivary flow, salivary gland biopsy and salivary scintigraphy are the dental tests included for diagnosing Sjogren’s syndrome. All these tests are considered only in combination with the patient’s physical examination to reach a final diagnosis.

Sjogren’s Syndrome and Pregnancy

Most of the women suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome are usually concerned about the risks of pregnancy. Reports show somewhat elevated rates of recurring fetal deaths in addition to congenital heart block in cases of pregnancies complicated by Sjogren’s syndrome. However, this rate is not alarmingly high. Hence women with Sjogren’s syndrome and plans for a family are surely advised to go ahead. As a precautionary measure though, the planning women should consider some blood tests and more so if there have been prior cases of miscarriage.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Diet

When diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, the diet should be changed and taken special care of. Natural and non-processed foods accounts for the ideal diet. The other foods to include in the diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat foods, lean meat, white chicken, fish, nuts, beans and soy products. Foods with high complex carbohydrates content are also some of the healthier options.

Avoid foods like milk, ice-cream, yogurt, chest, sauces and creams. Processed foods, pastas, wheat and food additives like red pepper, cayenne pepper and horseradish should be avoided strictly.

Sjogren’s syndrome leads to drying of body parts. Therefore, the affected individuals are advised to drink excess water to keep the body hydrated. Foods with high water content like peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon are also recommended.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Treatment

Though at present there isn’t any cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, treatments can improve the symptoms associated with it and thus prevent any further complications. Diagnosis at an early stage and proper medical care play an important role for Sjogren’s patients.

Over the counter drugs are available for dry mouth and eyes including mouth preparations and eye drops. The symptoms and complications of Sjogren’s syndrome are usually treated by these medicines only due to their capability to ease various types of pain and dryness. Some of the medicines that are commonly prescribed include Salagen, Restasis, Evoxac and Lacriset. However, these should be taken only under medical supervision as the effects of the syndrome on each patient varies in severity and requires a personalized plan by the medical practitioner.

Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation

Founded in the year 1983, Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation has a simple mission of helping individuals diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, supporting research efforts and increasing awareness. The foundation now spends about $400,000 for research work alone. It serves as the leading organization for various other Sjogren’s syndrome groups across the globe.

Another major activity carried out by the foundation is conducting awareness initiatives and conferences to educate physicians, healthcare professionals and nurses on Sjogren’s syndrome. Partnering with various media outlets, it expands its campaign of reaching out to the general public so as to create awareness.

The foundation also looks out on more than 80 support groups throughout Canada and USA. It is a non-profit organization with laudable accomplishments and dedication to serve patients with Sjogren’s syndrome in whatever way possible.



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