Approximately one to four million people are living with Sjögren’s Syndrome. If you or someone you love is one of them, you probably want to know more about this autoimmune disease.
Let’s discuss what causes Sjögren’s Syndrome, along with its symptoms and treatments. Plus, we’ll talk about managing your condition so you can get out and enjoy life.
What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your immune system starts to attack your body’s healthy cells and tissue. With Sjögren’s Syndrome, the saliva glands, tear glands, and other tissues that excrete through ducts are under attack from the white blood cells. This typically leads to dry mouth and dry eyes, the most common symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome.
While anyone can be affected by the disease, it is most common in women over 40. And even though it can occur alone, approximately half the time, it appears alongside other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
In addition to dry eyes and mouth, people may also experience:
- Dry skin or a skin rash
- Vaginal dryness
- Swollen salivary glands
- Painful swollen joints
Unfortunately, Sjögren’s Syndrome is challenging to diagnose. Its symptoms imitate other autoimmune disorders, and not all the signs are present simultaneously. Healthcare providers typically treat one or more symptoms without realizing the condition is systemic.
For a proper diagnosis, a patient must undergo multiple tests, including:
- Blood tests
- Dental exam
- Eye exam
Living with Sjögren’s Syndrome
While there is no cure, there are treatments that can help relieve symptoms. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help with pain, swelling, and inflammation. If you are experiencing pain, fatigue, and rashes, your doctor may prescribe disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). They may also prescribe eye drops and mouthwash to combat the dryness. Alternating hot and cold packs may help with pain and swelling.
In some cases, your physician may recommend surgery to seal up the tear ducts in your eyes.
Some lifestyle changes may help you better manage your symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome, including:
- If you smoke, then you might want to consider quitting. Smoking can irritate your eyes and mouth. Furthermore, smoking causes your saliva to dry up faster.
- Try an anti-inflammatory diet and avoid spicy foods
- Get adequate sleep, exercise, and learn how to manage your stress
- Chew sugar-free gum to help your mouth generate more saliva
- Practice good oral hygiene with brushing and flossing. The lack of saliva makes your teeth more prone to cavities.
- Place a few humidifiers in your home to increase the moisture indoors.
If you have or think you may have Sjögren’s Syndrome come see us at Advanced Rheumatology of Houston. We have over 10 years of experience treating chronic conditions, and we know that early diagnosis and treatment are essential in helping you manage your disease. Relief from your symptoms is possible. Call us at (281) 766-7886 or fill out our appointment request form.