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Sjogren's Syndrome

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The Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects the  production of saliva and tears. About 9 out of 10 people affected by sjogren's syndrome are women. Infections of the eyes, respiratory tract and mouth leads to complications in this condition. The treatment aims at providing relief to the symptoms.

What is Sjogren's syndrome?

The Sjogren's syndrome is an inflammatory disease that affects the moisture-producing glands of the body, that is, salivary glands and tear glands. It can also affect other organs like the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels, liver, pancreas, lungs and the central nervous system.

There are two types of Sjogren's syndrome, primary and secondary. In case of primary Sjogren's syndrome, the condition occurs in the absence of other autoimmune or connective tissue disorders. The condition only affects the salivary and lacrimal glands. Secondary Sjogren's syndromeis the condition where it presents itself along with other autoimmune or connective tissue disorders. These include systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Most of the complications related to Sjogren's syndrome are due to decrease in production of tears or saliva. Dry eyes increases the risk of developing eye infections around the eye. This may lead to damage of the cornea. Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, gingivitis and yeast infections of the mouth. This leads to dental pain and burning within the mouth.

In case of other parts affected, it leads to pain and stiffness of the joints. This can occur in case of primary Sjogren's syndrome too. One may observe rashes due to inflammation of the small blood vessels. It could lead to inflammation of the liver, kidney and lungs.

Symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome

Symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome include:

  • Extremely dry eyes leading to burning, redness and a feeling of sand or grit in the eyes
  • Extremely dry mouth and throat leading to problems chewing, swallowing, decreased sense of taste, dental caries, hoarseness and dry cough
  • Enlargement and infection of parotid glands
  • Aches and pains in the muscles and joints
  • Excessive fatigue

In some people, the condition may also lead to:

  • Skin rashes
  • Inflammation of the lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas
  • Cancer of the lymphatic tissues
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Memory loss
  • Thyroid abnormalities
  • Neuropathy

Causes of Sjogren's syndrome

Under normal conditions, the body’s immune system fights off infection and other foreign substances and protects the health of the body. In case of autoimmune diseases, the immune system turns against the body’s own cells and tissues, destroying them. In case of Sjogren's syndrome, the white blood cells attack the moisture-producing glands and destroys them.

The exact cause for abnormal immune response in case of Sjogren's syndrome is unknown. It may be due to any bacterial or viral infection that triggers the immune system to attack these glands. A few may have a genetic or inherited factor that leads to increase in risk of developing Sjogren's syndrome.

Diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome

A diagnosis of primary Sjogren's syndrome is done on the basis of several factors. These include dry eyes detected by measuring tear production and examination of the cornea.

Lab tests that include testing presence of autoantibodies in the body like anti-SSA or anti-SSB. Biopsy of the salivary glands to observe the inflammation within these glands.

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Treatment of Sjogren's syndrome

There is no cure for Sjogren's syndrome. However, it can be treated and the symptoms controlled. The treatments help in reducing the discomfort and dryness.

Treatment includes:

  • Medications that help increase production of saliva
  • Antifungal medications that help resolve yeast infections of the mouth
  • Toothpastes and gels that help reduce symptoms of dry mouth
  • Use of artificial tears to increase the level of eye moisture
  • Analgesics and acetaminophen as well as NSAIDs that help reduce the muscle and joint pain
  • Balanced diet, plenty of rest and exercise to overcome fatigue, muscle pain and maintain joint flexibility

The Sjogren's syndrome is not a life-threatening condition. Some people experience only mild symptoms of dry mouth and dry eyes. A few have more disabling complications that affect their eyes, mouth, vision and joints. There are cases where the symptoms disappear for many years and return. At times, it leads to other autoimmune diseases.

There is no way one can prevent Sjogren's syndrome. If you experience dry eyes and dry mouth, speak to your doctor regarding more details.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: december 29, 2014

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