Salivary Gland Disease Sjogrens Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune system disease. Roughly 4 million Americans currently live with the condition, according to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation (n.d.).

Although people of all ages and both genders can develop Sjogren’s syndrome, 90 percent of those diagnosed are women, and most patients are diagnosed in their late 40s, reports the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation (n.d.).

When Sjogren’s disease takes hold, white blood cells mistake moisture-producing glands–like the salivary and lacrimal (tear) glands–for invaders, and attack. Damaged glands can no longer produce moisture, which leads to the most prominent Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms: dry mouth and dry eyes. Sjogren’s syndrome can also affect the airways, sinuses, skin and vaginal region.

In about half of all cases, Sjogren’s disease occurs by itself, which classified as “primary Sjogren’s syndrome.” In other cases, Sjogren’s occurs in concert with other autoimmune diseases, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. This is called “secondary Sjogren’s syndrome.”

Sjogren’s Syndrome Symptoms

Common symptoms of Sjogren’s disease are:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Joint pain, swelling and stiffness
  • Muscoloskeletal pain
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Prolonged fatigue
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Vaginal dryness.

Sufferers may experience some or all of these symptoms.

Causes of Sjogren’s Disease

Scientists aren’t sure why some people develop Sjogren’s syndrome. Certain genes may predispose people to Sjogren’s syndrome, but it seems an additional viral or bacterial infection is necessary to cause the disease to flare up.

Diagnosing Sjogren’s Syndrome

It’s not easy to diagnose Sjogren’s disease, and the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation (n.d.) reports that the average time from first symptoms to diagnosis is six and a half years. Because Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms vary considerably, and can mimic the symptoms of other conditions, like allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, menopause, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, it can be difficult to diagnose. In addition, Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms affect many different body systems, so dentists, eye doctors and physicians may treat symptoms individually.

Techniques used to diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome include:

  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • Eye tests
  • Imaging
  • Spit test
  • Urine test.

Treating Sjogren’s Disease

Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic condition, although some patients may go into remission and the severity of symptoms varies.

Treatment concentrates on relieving Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms and can include the following:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Avoiding spicy and acidic foods
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Stimulating saliva production with sugarless gum and candy
  • Surgery to seal tear ducts that drain tears from the eyes
  • Treating internal organ issues with immunosuppressive drugs
  • Using hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that can help manage Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms
  • Using over-the-counter eye drops
  • Using prescription medication to relieve symptoms of dry mouth and dry eyes
  • Using vaginal lubricants or moisturizers.

Sjogren’s syndrome is a serious disease, although it is generally not fatal if complications are promptly addressed. However, patients with Sjogren’s disease are at an increased risk of developing lymphoma, according to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation (n.d.).

Resources

Harvard Medical School. (n.d.). Salivary gland disorders. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtPrint/WSIHW000/9339/31106.html?hide=t