Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS)

Introduction:

 

Sjogren’s Syndrome is a progressive autoimmune disease that, like many rheumatic diseases, tends to affect women more than men. Sjogren’s often affects tear and saliva-producing glands, leading to dryness of the eyes, mouth, and other organs.

 

Symptoms:

 

The hallmark of Sjogren’s disease is dryness of the eyes and mouth. Your eyes might feel itchy or burning. You might get ‘cotton-mouth’, especially in the early morning. Patients often have difficulty swallowing a cracker without water (‘cracker test’).

 

Patients may also suffer from:

 

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Swelling of lymph nodes and salivary glands in the head and neck

  • Rash brought on by sun-exposure

  • Pregnancy complications such as complete shutdown of the baby’s heart

  • Tooth cavities and infection

  • Severe fatigue and generalized joint pains

 

Importance of Treatment:

 

Sjogren’s is not curable, but it is treatable through a multi-modality approach. Your rheumatologist may recommend certain medications, which can alleviate the worst symptoms. Things that can help:

 

  • Active lifestyle with regular exercise

  • Regular eye and dental care

  • Unsweetened chewing gum

  • Artificial tears and mouth sprays

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with a trained therapist / counselor

  • Yoga and Tai Chi with a trained teacher

 

Untreated Sjogren’s can be quite debilitating. Patients can get eye and tooth infections, vision problems, yeast infection (due to vaginal dryness) chronic fatigue, chronic cough and pneumonia (due to dryness of the airways), and carry a significantly high risk of developing lymphoma.