Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the glands that produce tears and saliva.
Sjogren’s Syndrome inhibits these glands from doing their job. As a result, the two most dominant symptoms of Sjogren’s are dry eyes and dry mouth.
How can I tell if I have Sjogren’s Syndrome?
Patients with Sjogren’s complain of feeling like their eyes have dust or sand in them. This dryness makes the eyes feel oddly “gritty,” which can in turn cause an itching or burning sensation. The dry mouth
symptoms associated with Sjogren’s can make it difficult to swallow or speak. You might feel like you have something fuzzy in your mouth. Dry eyes and dry mouth are not the only issues that patients with Sjogren’s Syndrome report. Other less common symptoms include skin rashes, joint pain, coughing, and tooth decay. The symptoms are usually
secondary to eye and mouth dryness.
What causes Sjogren’s Syndrome?
As with other autoimmune diseases, Sjogren’s Syndrome is a condition in which the body’s immune system inadvertently attacks the body. In this case, your immune system goes after the cells and tissues that make up your tear and saliva glands. The white blood cells in your body attack the glands in your body that produce moisture. They can also attack tissue in the kidney, thyroid, liver, skin, lungs, joints, and nerves.
Medical professionals do not yet have a full understanding of why patients develop Sjogren’s Syndrome.
There is evidence to suggest certain genetic characteristics might make someone more susceptible to the condition. Possibly, a viral or bacterial infection occurs to trigger the syndrome.
How is Sjogren’s Syndrome diagnosed?
Sjogren’s Syndrome is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be associated with other
conditions as well. The fact that Sjogren’s Syndrome affects multiple parts of the body also contributes
to difficulty in its diagnosis. A patient might go to an eye doctor to ask about eye dryness, or to a dentist
to discuss dry mouth and tooth decay. These professionals might end up looking in the wrong place if
they don’t know the condition is manifesting itself in these areas. Patients might not even realize their
disparate symptoms are connected.
There are multiple tests medical professionals can perform to diagnose Sjogren’s Syndrome. An eye
doctor can perform dry eye tests like Rose Bengal, Lissamine Green, and Schirmer. If you are struggling
with dry eyes, you should ask your eye doctor about these tests, how they are run, and what they may
How is Sjogren’s Syndrome treated?
Unfortunately, there is no true “cure” for Sjogren’s Syndrome. Because doctors don’t completely understand the cause of the condition, it is difficult to eradicate it. However, there are treatments that can help patients live normal lives despite the disease. These treatments primarily seek to restore moisture and lubrication throughout the body. Eye drops and artificial tears are common treatments to restore eye moisture. Medications to stimulate saliva production are common to treat mouth dryness.
Before a patient adopts a treatment regimen, a professional must establish a firm diagnosis. Be open with your doctor. If you have eye dryness that is accompanied by dry mouth, sore joints, or other symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome, be sure to bring those symptoms up. What seem like mild or temporary symptoms might be more relevant to your long-term health than you think.