Sjogren's Syndrome Info

Info about a little know autoimmune condition, known as Sjogren's Syndrome, which is responsible for many misunderstood symptoms.

Named for the early 1900's Swedish physician, Henrik Sjogren, Sjogren's Syndrome (SS) is one of many autoimmune disorders affecting the world's population today. And, though each condition may affect its sufferers in any number of different ways, one commonality is shared. Autoimmune diseases are those which cause the body to produce antibodies, or cells, which turn and attack the body, itself. Instead of supporting the immune system in its fight against infections and disease, the autoimmune condition will turn against the body, itself, potentially causing irreversible damage.

In Sjogren's, or SS, where fluid glands can be damaged from frequent infections, a serious reduction in the production of tears and saliva occurs, two of the most notable symptoms of SS. Other symptoms might include fatigue, a reduced immune system, as well as dry mouth, sensitivity to many airborne agents, even to light winds blowing. SS sufferers may also experience symptoms of, or actually develop, other autoimmune conditions (such as Raynaud's, Vasculitis, Fibromyalgia or Lupus) during the course of SS.

Many people with SS frequently use artificial teardrops to moisten the eyes and to ease painfully dry eyes. In some cases, an SS sufferer may not even be able to shed tears. The emotions will still be intact, but the actual tears may not come. For dry mouth, a lack of oral moisture can lead to a number of oral diseases and rapid deterioration of the teeth. Saliva serves as a natural rinse, protecting against the build up of bacteria. Without this natural defense, SS sufferers must pay special attention to dental care, using oral rinses or mouthwash to help rinse away harmful irritants. The dryness may also cause difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or even singing.

Digestive problems may also be experienced, as fluids are greatly needed to decrease inflammation and for adequate digestion. Without the necessary fluids, a patient may suffer nausea, fullness of the abdomen, or some discomfort caused by a burning feeling. Increasing the intake of fluids - water or sugar-free drinks - can greatly improve many of the drying conditions of SS.

Aches and pains in muscles and joints are also often felt. And, depending on whether the SS is considered primary or secondary, SS sufferers may experience other connective tissue disorders and diseases. These other conditions may exist alongside of the SS, or they may develop over time. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or scleroderma may develop. Some people will also suffer from fibromyalgia, which is an inflammation of the muscles and connective tissues.

There is no known cause of SS, though there are theories of various types. Obviously a condition involving the immune system, some theorists suggest that SS may come from genetic sources, other immune system conditions, various infections that strike the body, or even possibly a result of some hormonal imbalance.



SS can be diagnosed with some combination of: competent physical exam, blood tests, salivary gland x-rays, and/or a lip biopsy. Diagnosis and treatment is best performed by a rheumatologist, the leaders in the research of causes and treatments of SS. Although there is no cure for SS, there are treatments that some patients have found to be beneficial, depending on individual situations, as well as the combination and severity of symptoms.

SS can not be cured, but it can be treated. If properly diagnosed and treated, it is possible for SS to be not much more than a major nuisance. However, if left undiagnosed or untreated, SS can develop into serious problems, which could have devastating effects. All symptoms should be carefully considered, as well as a close examination of family medical histories.

Treatment for SS may be as varied as the symptoms suffered by each individual case. Artificial tears can help relieve eye dryness and pain. Some artificial saliva products have been found to help alleviate dry mouth and its accompanying problems. In more severe cases, an SS sufferer may need to have tear ducts closed off by the insertion of punctal plugs, which help reduce the rapid depletion of tears, both natural and artificial.

Though there is no way to reverse the damage, with the proper medical care, the dry eyes can be treated to reduce some of the discomfort and pain. Left untreated, permanent eye damage can result.

Fatigue, and additional sleep problems suffered during SS, can lead to other conditions and problems for the SS sufferer, as well. Fatigue and frustration are difficult, and need to be addressed, as well as recognizing and accepting limitations. It is also important to learn how to say "No" to others without feeling the usual accompanying guilt, and try to find less labor-demanding ways of accomplishing normal everyday tasks. It may be necessary to be more selective in activities, to extend depleted energies.

Another precaution SS patients should consider very carefully is making ALL medical professionals with whom they deal fully aware of their SS condition. If surgery is expected, SS sufferers should have a long talk with their doctor and with their anesthesiologist, well in advance of any scheduled surgery, including visits to the dentist. Complications may be rare, but they can become more likely if everyone involved in the medical care of an SS sufferer is not fully informed about the SS.

In more recent years, we have seen a major focus on conditions like AIDS, and more so lately on conditions like fibromyalgia. But Sjogren's hasn't seen much exposure. So, many people who suffer with this condition may have no clue of the underlying causes, even enduring unnecessary testing and treatments for other conditions, when SS may be the primary cause of their problems.

As with any chronic illness, SS will change lives. But it doesn't have to end life as one knows it. Life, in all its fullness, can still be experienced and enjoyed. There may need to be some limitations set, yes, but if done in a timely and reasonable manner, much of life can be accomplished as usual.

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