Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder that causes inflammation of glands and it affects females in majority. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes complications in your mouth, eyes and airway path. Healthy tissues of the body are attacked and destroyed by immune system antibodies. This disorder can be diagnosed by biopsy of salivary gland tissue. Treatment is given for curing the symptoms and to prevent further complications. This disorder causes dryness of eyes and mouth making it prone to infection.
Swedish ophthalmologist by name Henrik Sjogren was the first to discover the above symptoms and hence this disorder is named after him. Due to repeated infection on the salivary glands it reduces the production of saliva and tears on the eyes causing dryness. If the Sjogren’s syndrome is not affecting the connective tissue then it is primary type of disorder. When the disorder is related with the functioning of connective tissue disease like lupus or arthritis it is called as secondary syndrome. Though the disorder can develop on any age, it is commonly seen on people who are above 40. About 90% of the patients affected with Sjogren’s syndrome are women.
Sjogren’s Syndrome Symptoms :
Majority of the symptom of this disorder is dryness of eyes and mouth. You will have burning sensation in your eyes as if somebody has thrown sand into it. Because of this syndrome the lacrimal (tear) glands will become dry causing irritation of the eyes. Dry eyes will eventually cause infections on the eyes and this condition is called as xerophthalmia.
Due to lack of saliva in the mouth it becomes dry thus eventually causing trouble in swallowing and talking. Dryness in the mouth will cause dental decay, gum disease and cavities and mouth ulcers. Mouth dryness (xerostomia) will be accompanied by dry lips.
Apart from the above signs, some people will also have vaginal dryness, joint pain, skin rashes, dry cough, and extreme tiredness. Due to repeated infections on the mouth and eyes, other body parts will also get infected causing vaginal dryness and dryness of the breathing passage. Often, a person having sjogren’s disorder will also develop Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causing abnormal levels of thyroid hormones.
It is believed to be caused by inherited factors but no proof exists to support this theory. Sjogren’s syndrome is often found to run in families with other autoimmune disorders like lupus and arthritis. This syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which body’s own immune system will attack healthy tissues and cells of your body. The immune system will first attack the salivary glands and lacrimal glands causing dryness.
Who Are At Risk ?
Individuals who are above 40 years, and having one or other autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis are prone to get sjogren’s syndrome. Women have more chance to develop this disorder than men for unknown reasons. This disorder can cause certain complications in your vision leading to blurred vision and photosensitivity.
Similarly dryness of mouth can cause tooth decay, cavities and other infections. It can affect any body part like lungs or liver causing inflammation of the tissues leading to complications like pneumonia and cirrhosis. In rare cases, individuals with this syndrome may develop lymph nodes cancer.
Sjogren’s syndrome can be diagnosed by the above symptoms. But your doctor will advise series of tests including blood culture, eye tests and imaging tests. Blood test is done to check blood sugar levels, level of antibodies, and proof for inflammation. Eye examination includes slit lamp test, shirmer test for detecting how far the infection has damaged your eyes. He may conduct sialogram test for checking the functions of salivary glands. Further he may order for biopsy of small tissue from your mouth or lips for detecting ulcers.
It is possible to manage the mild form of symptoms like dry eyes by using over the counter eye-drops and signs like dry mouth by taking water more frequently. But moderate dryness or severe dryness should be treated with medications.
Your doctor will look for your symptoms and prescribe drugs like Salagen or Evoxac that will constantly increase saliva secretion. But these drugs may cause adverse effects like abdominal pain and profuse sweating and asthma patients should not take this drug. This medicine can also be used for treating eye dryness. Restatsis is an excellent eye drops for overcoming dryness in the eyes.
For individuals with autoimmune disorder like arthritis, NSAID is given. Antifungal drops and pills are given for treating yeast infections. Medications like hydroxychloroquine (given for controlling malaria symptoms) are also prescribed for sjogren’s syndrome. For severe cases, surgery is done for sealing the tear ducts that inhibits the tears from your eyes. This procedure is called punctal occlusion. For closing the ducts temporarily some doctors use silicone plugs also. Laser treatment is effective for sealing the duct permanently.
The purpose of the treatment is aimed in curing the symptoms and preventing further complications like infections. Several types of toothpaste and special gums and lozenges can be used widely by people suffering from dry mouth. For treating nasal infection, you can use saline spray into your nostrils with care. For managing vaginal dryness you can use special lubricants available over the counter. Antibiotics are prescribed by the doctors for controlling the symptoms of infections in sjogren’s syndrome.
Home Remedies :
You can use artificial tears and eye lubricants for managing dryness in your eyes. But you should not use the lubricants often since it can cause irritation. Eye lubricants will be in thick density and hence it can cause blurring of vision. You can manage to increase the humidity using thermostat so that your eyes will not become dry very often. While going outdoors you can wear goggles to avoid unwanted air blowing into your eyes.
Make sure that you are sipping some fluids frequently which will reduce the symptoms of dry mouth. Hard candies can be used as a substitute for increasing the production of saliva. Avoid eating sweets which will increase dental cavities making more complications. Visit your dentist regularly to avoid tooth decay and loss. Brushing and flossing should be done by individuals with sjogren’s syndrome compulsorily. Use toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride. In case your skin becomes dry frequently you can use Vaseline cream liberally.
You cannot prevent getting Sjogren’s syndrome in case it is inherited. Hence you can manage to treat the symptoms using the right methods.