What You Need to Know About Sjogren's Syndrome
Sjogren's Syndrome is a rare and difficult condition that can dramatically affect the lives of those that have it.
Having to live with lung, vision, and dental issues daily are just some of the many problems that come with such a condition.
However, if the condition is caught early enough, treatment can be focused on making the situation much easier. Read on to learn more about Sjogren's Syndrome and how it can be treated.
What is Sjogren's Syndrome
Before diving into the treatment and symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome, it's important to know what it is and how it affects the body. Sjogren's Syndrome is classified as a type of autoimmune disorder that is directly correlated to the moisture found within the glands.
While it isn't commonly discussed in media, Sjogren's Syndrome affects between 0.1 to 4 percent of Americans, 90 percent of whom are women. For those with Sjogren's Syndrome, finding it can be the most difficult part, often requiring several types of testing to truly confirm it.
Unfortunately, there is still much that is unknown Sjogren's Syndrome, including its causes. Some studies suggest that the disorder is a result of a viral or bacteria disorder, but it appears that the largest contributing factors are genetics and the environment.
The fact that the hormone-producing part of our nervous system (known as our endocrine) has also been closely linked to Sjogren's Syndrome, may give us a clue as to why the disorder tends to primarily affect women. It may also explain why menopause is the peak time for a Sjogren's Syndrome diagnosis to occur.
Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome
While spotting Sjogren's syndrome can often be tricky, there are a number of symptoms to be on the lookout for if you believe you may be suffering from the condition. These symptoms include:
A harsh dry cough that doesn't seem to go away
Red or swollen salivary glans
Difficulty speaking due to a sore throat
Itchy or tired feeling eyes
Looking more tired
A stinging or swollen sensation
Blurry or disoriented vision
Difficulty chewing and swallowing
Feeling as though there is gravel within the eyes
For women, vaginal dryness
Who is at Risk for Sjogren's Symptoms
Women are 90% more likely to develop Sjogren's syndrome than men are, but there may be more clues as to who has a higher likelihood of developing the condition.
While the condition can occur in almost any age group, most patients are diagnosed within their late 40's. Those with a history of Sjogren's syndrome in their family are also at a higher likelihood of developing it over time.
Complications If Left Untreated
It's important to catch Sjogren's syndrome early on, as some serious complications can arise if the condition is left without any form of treatment. Some complications that may arise include:
Dental cavities, rotting, and even tooth decay
Second-degree yeast infections
Inflammation of the lungs that can lead to pneumonia or bronchitis
Prenatal problems during pregnancy, including heart problems
Cysts with the bladder
Long-term vision problems
A higher risk of multiple myeloma or lymphoma
Cysts or infections within the bladder
Tests for Sjogren's Syndrome
To avoid harsh conditions from Sjogren's syndrome, it's important to get testing done early on. some tests that may occur for Sjogren's syndrome may include:
Blood tests: Since Sjogren's syndrome typically triggers specific antibodies, a blood test can usually be a strong indicator of the condition being present. However, it's important to remember that up to 70 percent of people who test for Sjogren's syndrome will show up negative despite having the condition.
Salivary flow rate: Doctors can measure the weight of saliva that is produced, as insufficient saliva can be a sign of the syndrome.
Urine testing: Urine tests are typically used to see if the condition has advanced to the point where the kidney is infected.
CT-scan or Chest X-ray: Through a CT scan, a doctor can search for the presence of inflammation in the chest caused by the condition.
Skin biopsy: Skin biopsies may also be used in more extreme cases to check for the presence of fiber neuropathy.
In some cases, a diet may be suggested by a doctor for those suffering from Sjogren's. While the diet will not treat the condition, it may help reduce the severity of some of its symptoms. Since Sjogren's has a strong connection to hormones, alcohol should be avoided along with spicy foods or foods that seem overly acidic.
To help ease symptoms:
-Go for foods that use sauces or oils, making them easier to swallow.
-Be sure to have a drink to wash your food down with
-Add cucumber or foods with a high water volume
-Increase the amount of fluid you drink
The type of treatment used for Sjogren's Syndrome typically depends on how severe the conditions have become. The first thing your doctor will do is prescribe medication to help prevent complications from arising. These treatments may include:
Artificial saliva to help reduce dryness of the mouth in the form of sprays or liquids.
Artificial tears to help reduce scratchiness and redness in eyes.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen for relief from joint pain.
Anti-fungal medication or vaginal lubricants to help in the event of a yeast infection or vaginal dryness.
Conditions like Sjogren's Syndrome require early treatment and intervention, which is why it's important to go with a medical practitioner that you can trust.
Rarer conditions can often be more difficult to spot, which is why finding a practitioner that is knowledgeable about the condition is essential. To avoid more intense symptoms from arising, we strongly suggest getting treatment as early as possible.