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Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition affecting your immune system. People suffering from this condition often have other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Sjogren’s syndrome causes your immune system to attack healthy cells and tissue. The mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth often are affected first. As a result, people with the condition do not produce an adequate supply of tears and saliva, resulting in dry eyes and a dry mouth.

The condition most commonly affects people over the age of 40, and women are more prone to it than men.

Causes of Sjogren’s Syndrome

There is no known specific cause for Sjogren’s syndrome, but researchers believe that the following factors may be responsible for causing problems with your immune system:

  • Heredity
  • Hormones
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Nervous system

When you have Sjogren’s syndrome, your white blood cells target, attack, and damage your moisture-producing glands. In certain cases, your lungs, kidneys, and liver may be damaged as well.

Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome

Symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Dental cavities
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged parotid glands (salivary glands behind your jaw)
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Change in sense of taste
  • Hoarseness
  • Oral yeast infections
  • Skin rashes or dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry cough
  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness

Diagnosis

The condition can be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. Furthermore, each person with Sjogren’s syndrome exhibits a different combination of symptoms. Side effects of certain medications may also mimic symptoms of the disorder, further complicating its diagnosis.

Your doctor will review your medical history to get a better picture of your symptoms, other conditions you may suffer from, and any medications you may be taking. The following tests may also be used to more accurately diagnose Sjorgen’s syndrome:

  • Blood tests to evaluate your blood count and check for autoantibodies
  • Schirmer tear test to evaluate the dryness of your eyes
  • Sialogram – an x-ray used to evaluate the condition of your salivary glands
  • Lip biopsy
  • Urine sample
  • Slit lamp exam to measure the dryness of your eyes

Treatment

The following medications can be used to treat Sjogren’s syndrome:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Corticosteroids
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Pilocarpine
  • Cevimeline
  • Immunosuppressants

If you suffer from dry eye syndrome as a result of Sjogren’s syndrome, your eye doctor can perform a surgical procedure to alleviate your dry eye symptoms. Punctal plugs can be used to seal your tear ducts so that they do not drain as quickly. This procedure is minor and can be reversed if necessary.

Please contact an eye doctor in your area if you suffer from dry eyes as a result of Sjogren’s syndrome.

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