Sjogren’s syndrome is an immune system disorder which is characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth. It is often seen in association with other immune system dysfunctions – lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The mucous membranes and moisture releasing glands of your eyes and mouth get impaired and result in a reduction in the production of tears and saliva.
Symptoms And Causes Of Sjogren’s Syndrome
The chief symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:
- Dry eyes: The eyes will burn, itch or feel as if there’s sand in them.
- Dry mouth: The mouth is dry and there is a sensation as if it is full of cotton, talking as well as swallowing is difficult.
Other symptoms include:
- Pain, stiffness, inflammation and swelling in the joints.
- Swelling and inflammation of the salivary glands.
- Continual dry cough.
- Dryness of the vagina.
- Skin rashes
Causes of Sjogren’s syndrome
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition; i.e. the immune system attacks your body’s own cells erroneously.
The cause may be idiopathic. In some cases, certain genes increase the risk of developing the dysfunction. Clinical trials and research show that a trigger, such as infection with a particular virus or bacteria is also necessary to develop Sjogren’s syndrome.
Treatment Options For Sjogren’s Syndrome
Depending upon your clinical picture, your physician will suggest medicines:
- Drugs such as pilocarpine help increase saliva production as well as manufacture of tears.
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs need to be taken to manage joint pain and swelling.
- Prescription eye drops help deal with dry eyes effectively.
- Yeast infection in the mouth needs to be managed with anti-fungal medications.
- You need to use artificial tears, an eye lubricant or both. They allay dry eyes successfully.
- Increase indoor humidity; use humidifiers and decrease your exposure to blowing air – this helps keep the eyes from getting dry. Do not sit in front of a fan or air conditioning vent, and always wear glasses when you go outside.
- Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids, predominantly water; it will reduce dry mouth as well as dry eyes.
- Sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva. Sjogren’s syndrome raises your risk of dental cavities; hence restrict your intake of sweets. Lemon juice in water stimulates saliva flow as well.
- Talk to your health care provider about saliva replacement products; they contain a lubricant which helps the mouth stay moist for longer. These products are in the form of a spray or lozenge.
- A nasal saline moisturizes and clears up nasal passages so you can breathe freely through your nose. A blocked nose increases mouth breathing.
- In case you have a dry skin, steer clear of hot water when you shower. Apply a moisturizer when your skin is still damp after the shower. Ensure that you always use gloves when doing the dishes. Vaginal lubricants help women having vaginal dryness.
Surgery: Some doctors advocate surgical intervention to manage dry eyes; the tear ducts that drain tears from your eyes are sealed. Collagen plugs are introduced into the ducts to bring about provisional closing. Collagen plugs dissolve with time. Instead, your physician may also make use of laser to permanently seal the tear ducts.