An overview of Sjogren’s syndrome

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The Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation points out that 90% out of 4 million patients who have the disease are women, since older women after menopause are more susceptible to it. Sjogren’s syndrome affects moist and lubricated eyes and mouth by damaging related glands, resulting in dry eye. In fact, this syndrome is an autoimmune disease featuring dry mouth and dry eye. This kind of autoimmune disease typically involves an abnormal production of extra antibodies in the blood and various tissues will be attacked abnormally. More specifically, glands of the body that are responsible for producing tears and saliva suffer an inflammation. This explains exactly the typical symptom of dry eye and dry mouth.

Sjogren’s syndrome has many symptoms

Other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include unusual dryness in the vaginal area, dry sinuses, frequent sinus infections, dry and sore mouth, inability to chew and swallow properly, dry and sore skin etc. Burry vision, eye burning sensation, grittiness and light sensitivity are also possible signs of Sjogren’s syndrome. In fact, these symptoms are linked with mainly two different reasons, namely the inflammation of tear gland and the inflammation of salivary glands. The first part usually leads to eye-related disorders mentioned above and the second element causes typically mouth-related symptoms. If it is not associated with another connective tissue disease, it is called primary Sjogren’s syndrome. Otherwise, the condition is referred to as secondary Sjogren’s syndrome.

Side effects or diseases possibly caused by Sjogren’s syndrome

There are still various side effects caused by Sjogren’s syndrome. Extreme eye dryness may damage surface tissues of the cornea and conjunctiva, leading to scarring and infection. Blepharitis can be caused by irritation and inflammation of the eyelid glands. Dry mouth may lead to rapid tooth decay or loss, unless artificial saliva lubricants are used to moisten the mouth. Other potential diseases that can be caused by Sjogren’s syndrome include lymphoma, swollen or enlarged lymph nodes and vasculitis.

Other conditions that may accompany Sjogren’s syndrome

In its secondary form, Sjogren’s syndrome is always accompanied by other autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus and thyroiditis, which cause inflammatory effects in different organs. These abnormal immune responses may be inherited or caused by viral or bacterial infections. Sjogren’s syndrome is sometimes associated with celiac disease. Other reasons that may contribute to dry eye include an arid environment, certain medications and improper contact lenses. In this sense, Sjogren’s syndrome sometimes occurs together with these conditions.

How to diagnose the disease

The diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome relies on various tests. A five-minute testing of the tears amount of the eye using a strip of test paper in the corner of the eye can evaluate the degree of dry eye. Vital dye staining can also measure the severity of eye dryness. Antinuclear antibodies such as SS-A and SS-B can be discovered via a simple blood test if a patient has Sjogren’s syndrome. A tissue sample from a salivary gland of the lip can be used to analyze the amount and quality of saliva produced in the mouth.

Medications help ease or treat Sjogren’s syndrome

Prolonged artificial tears or ointments treatments can ease dry eye caused by Sjogren’s syndrome. Some symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome can be relieved in various ways. Different parts of the body need different solutions: water and sugarless gum for moist mouth, artificial tears for wet eyes, saline spray for nose, and humidified air for moist skin. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be used to treat pain or inflammation, and immunosuppressant will be effective for treating serious Sjogren’s syndrome.