Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to destroy the glands responsible for keeping the eyes and other parts of the body lubricated.
It occurs most frequently in women and is often linked to other conditions such as arthritis.
Your immune system mistakes the moisture-secreting glands in your eyes and mouth as harmful to your body. In order to neutralise the threat, your white blood cells begin attacking these glands. The result is a decrease in the production of tears and saliva.
Due to this decline in moisture production, your eyes may burn, itch or feel gritty and your mouth may feel dry making it difficult to swallow or speak. Other parts of your body besides your eyes and mouth may become targets as well, including your joints, thyroid, kidneys, genitals, liver, lungs, skin and nerves.
Attacks in these areas can lead to symptoms such as joint pain and swelling, rashes or dry skin, persistent dry cough and prolonged fatigue.
In most cases, the individual symptoms of Sjorgren’s Syndrome can be managed with over the counter or prescription medication but in some cases a minor surgical procedure may be performed to alleviate your symptoms.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sufferers of Sjogren’s Syndrome commonly experience dry eyes which may be accompanied by blurred vision, light sensitivity and eye irritation. (Please note that dry eye symptoms can have numerous other causes as well, and need not necessarily be a symptom of Sjogren’s Syndrome).
Aside from dry eyes, people with Sjogren’s Syndrome tend to suffer from a dry mouth which may also lead to an inability to chew and swallow easily. Sjogren’s Syndrome can also cause dry sinuses, which can lead to a high occurrence of sinus infections. Sufferers can experience dry and sore skin as well.
Joint and muscle pain are also common and the disease can occur alongside arthritis in some people.
Causes of Sjogren’s Syndrome
It is not known exactly what causes Sjogren’s Syndrome. It is thought to be linked to genetics, but may also be linked to a bacterial or viral infection.
Some people have a higher chance of developing Sjogren’s Syndrome than others. Older women in particular are most at risk, with around 90 percent of people with Sjogren’s Syndrome being female.
The disease can occur on its own, but in some people it occurs alongside other autoimmune disorders such as lupus and arthritis.
Treatment for Sjogren’s Syndrome
Treatments for Sjogren’s Syndrome generally focus on the symptoms as the cause is as yet unknown. Dry eye treatments range from simple eye drops to surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.