Sjogren’s Syndrome Symptoms, Cause, Complications, Diagnosis, Diet and Treatments to Look Out for
Sjogren’s syndrome, also called sicca syndrome, is an autoimmune disorder that affects some of the major fluid-producing organs in your body. It occurs when your immune system or your white blood cells suddenly turn on these organs. While these white blood cells can invade a few other organs, two of the most common organs attacked are the salivary and the tear glands. When this occur, the result is a reduction in tears and saliva production.
Sjogren’s syndrome can be very serious, however, if caught and treated in time, it usually is much easier to manage. Here are some other key facts about this condition you should know:
Facts about Sjogren’s Syndrome
1.This syndrome causes an inflammation of the organs and tissues it attacks.
2.While both sexes get affected by it, almost 90% of affected patients are females.
3.Sjogren’s syndrome is sometimes difficult to diagnose due to it presenting with quite a number of symptoms.
4.Diagnosis for Sjogren’s syndrome is mostly via a saliva-gland biopsy.
5.Sjogren’s could cause a dysfunction of other major organs of the body like the blood vessels, liver, kidney, pancreas, gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system.
6.Being diagnosed of Sjogren’s disorder increases your risk of developing lymphoma by up to 5%
7.It is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disease with 4,000,000 Americans suffering from it.
8.Symptoms of this disorder remain steady, get worse or go into remission.
9.Diagnosis of Sjogren’s sometimes takes time and it could be as long as 2.8 years to get a diagnosis.
10.This autoimmune disorder mostly occurs after the age of 40.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome
There are a few symptoms you can expect to see with this disorder, however, two of the most common ones to look out for are dry eyes and dry mouth. Sjogren’s causes these primary symptoms by reducing the production of tears and saliva.
Other symptoms of this disorder include:
- Sensitivity to light, smoke and fumes,
- Difficulties when you try to chew or swallow.
- Sore and cracked tongue
- Sore mouth
- Dry or peeling lips
- Dry cough
- Increased thirst.
- Irritable bowel
- Nausea and stomach upset
- Joint and muscle pain
- Dry nose and recurrent sinusitis
- Recurrent cavities
- Sore mouth
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Digestive issues
- Distorted vision
- Brain fog
- Extreme fatigue
- Itchy, sandy feelings in the eyes
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Frequent infection
- Numbness in your extremities
- Vagina dryness
- Dry or burning sensation in the throat
- A change in your sense of taste or smell
What Causes Sjogren’s Syndrome
There is no clear reason why people develop Sjogren’s or sicca syndrome, however it is believed genetics or the environment both play a major role in a person developing this disorder.
Scientists speculate having certain genes or coming down with an infection with a particular virus or strain of bacteria could actually increase your risk of this disorder.
Sjogren’s syndrome mostly starts with the salivary and tear glands, but its destruction could spread to other organs like your lungs, liver, kidneys, joint, thyroid, and nerves.
Risk Factors of Sjogren’s or Sicca Syndrome
Certain factors increase your risk of developing this disorder and they include
- Being a woman
- Being 40 years and above
- Being diagnosed of a rheumatic disease
- Being from a family with a history of autoimmune diseases
Complications of Sjogren’s Syndrome
The most common complications of this disorder happen to your eyes and mouth. Other complications include:
Frequent Dental Decay or Cavities
With the reduction in saliva that work to protect the teeth from bacteria that cause tooth decay, you are more at risk of cavities.
Constantly having dry eyes could lead to developing vision problems like blurred vision, sensitivity to light and corneal damage.
You are also at risk of developing one or more infections such as oral thrush, eye infections dental infections, bronchitis and vaginitis
Inflammation of your lungs, kidneys or livers could cause bronchitis, pneumonia , hepatitis or cirrhosis
There’s also the risk of developing never problems like numbness, tingling or burning in your extremities.
How is Sjogren’s Syndrome Diagnosed
Sicca syndrome is a little tricky to diagnose as symptoms of it mimics other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus and multiple sclerosis.
To correctly diagnose this disease you rheumatologist would need to conduct a series of tests include but aren’t limited to
- A series of blood tests which include an ANA (Anti-Nuclear Antibody) test, an RF (Rheumatoid Factor) test, a SS-A (or Ro) and SS-B (or La) test, ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) test, and an IGs (Immunoglobulins).
- Ophthalmologic (eye) tests which include the Schirmer Test to measure tear production and the Rose Bengal and Lissamine Green test.
- Dental tests include the Salivary Flow test and the Salivary scintigraphy test
Diet for Sjogren’s Syndrome
There isn’t a particularly right diet for sicca syndrome, however, from research it has been discovered eating diets that have a high water content as well as limiting diuretic foods such as cabbage, asparagus, tomatoes, lettuce, watercress, and cucumbers, and carrots can help you retain more water in your system.
Other foods to include in your diet include vegetables, fruits, fibers, liquid, moist foods, organic meat, protein, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and alternate milk (milk made from other sources like almonds, rice, coconut and cashews are great substitutes).
Treatment for Sjogren’s Syndrome
There is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, however, symptoms can be adequately managed to bring you relief. Here are a few management options available for this autoimmune disorder:
- The use of prescription eyedrops such as cyclosporine or lifitegrast to reduce inflammation and dry eyes.
- The use of drugs such as pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac) to increase the production of saliva
- The use of saliva substitutes (artificial saliva) and mouth-coating gels available n different forms like sprays, liquids, and pre-treated swabs to relieve the problem of mouth dryness.
- Antifungal medications for the treatment of fungal infections.
- The use of vaginal moisturizers and lubricants to manage issues with vaginal dryness.
- Prescription expectorants and throat medications can be used to manage issues of respiratory dryness.
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Homemade or Quick Ways to Manage Sjogren’s Syndrome
For fast relief from the discomfort this autoimmune disorder brings, here are some quick tips you can adopt:
- Take lots of liquid and often too to make up for the little quantity your body produces.
- Quit smoking as smoking has been known to not just irritate the mouth, but also promote saliva evaporation.
- You can also chew sugar-free gum as this has also been known to boost saliva production.
- Make use of coconut oil as a stand-in for vaginal moisturizer.
Tags: sicca syndrome, sjogren’s syndrome causes, complications, diet and treatment