Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. The symptoms associated with Sjogren's are caused by the infiltration of immune-system cells, usually B and T lymphocytes, into the glands responsible for secreting fluid. This particular autoimmune illness appears as inflammation in certain glands of the body that produce moisture such as the (lacrimal glands) that leads to decreased water production for tears and eye dryness and the salivary glands (including the parotid glands) that leads to mouth dryness.
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Sjogren's syndrome, existing as a disorder in its own right, involves gland inflammation (resulting dry eyes and mouth, etc.) and is not associated with a connective tissue disease referred to as primary Sjogren's syndrome.
Secondary Sjogren's syndrome involves not only gland inflammation, but may develop years after the onset of an associated rheumatic disorder of connective tissue disease such as systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis erythematosus or scleroderma.
The main symptoms of Sjogren's are generalized dryness including chronic dryness of the eyes and mouth. It is also associated with dryness in skin, external genitalia, the ear, and the nose and throat area. There may also be decreased secretions in the gastrointestinal tract including the kidneys, liver and pancreas. It can affect other parts of the body including the blood vessels, lungs, peripheral nervous system and the brain. It is also associated with increased levels of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in specific parts of the brain.
The cause of Sjogren's Syndrome is not known, though it may be related to genetic (inherited) factors. Females make up 90% of the people with Sjogren's. The damage occurs because the white blood cells of the body attack the moisture-producing glands of the body.
There are medications that can be prescribed that help relieve the dry eyes such as Restasis, and other medications for dry mouth such as pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac). Sometimes anti-inflammatories such as Prednisone and autoimmune suppressants such as azathioprine and cyclophosphamide are prescribed.
Eye doctors use the Schirmer test, measuring tear production, and Rose Bengal and Lissamine Green eyedrops to evaluate the cornea surface. Dentists measure saliva flow and production including a biopsy of the salivary gland.
While treatments are primarily based on symptoms, it is important to monitor for lymphoma.
- Supplement with helpful nutrients and eyedrops.
- Diet & lifestyle protocol - see our recommendations for healthy vision for more detailed recommendations
- Nibble on lemons or natural low sugar candies to stimulate saliva production.
- Use toothpaste without detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate or cocamidopropyl betaine to reduce mouth irritation.
- Combat nose dryness with salt water (saline) solutions.
- Drink plenty of water. Small sips frequently is more effective and comfortable.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your bedroom
- Managing stress is important for managing this condition
- Pay attention to drugs that harm the eyes
- Avoid strongly flavored foods and soft drinks that may irritate your dry mouth or interfere with digestion.
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Here are some similar conditions - they have similar symptoms, or they are due to similar causes, or they may respond to similar treatments.
- Dry Eyes
- Rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Extra-glandular conditions such as enlarged parotid gland
- Dry mouth, dry skin, other tissue dryness
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Hepatitis C
- Immune deficiency conditions