Sjogren’s Syndrome is a chronic disease in which the white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands. The mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth are usually affected first, resulting in decreased production of tears and saliva. The characteristic symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, but it is a systemic disease, affecting many organs. Sjogren’s is one of the prevalent autoimmune disorders, afflicting as many as 4,000,000 Americans. Women are nine times more likely to have Sjogren’s syndrome than men.
Approximately 50% of the time Sjogren’s Syndrome will occur alone, and 50% of the time it occurs in the presence of another connective tissue disease. The four most frequent diagnoses that co-exist with Sjogren’s Syndrome are Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus, Systemic Sclerosis (scleroderma) and olymyositis/Dermatomyositis. When occurring alone, Sjogren’s is referred to a ‘Primary Sjogren’s’ and when occurring with another disease, it is referred to as ‘Second Sjogren’s’. All cases, whether Primary or Secondary, are systemic, and affect the full body.
People who are afflicted with Sjogren’s Syndrome are able to lead very normal lives. When a diagnosis is made, many patients must focus a great deal of attention dealing with dry eyes and dry mouth, but these symptoms tend to subside with time. Any pain or redness in the eyes should be evaluated promptly, as this may signal an infection. To reduce risk for cavities and other dental problems, patients must pay close attention to proper oral hygiene and regular dental care. There is no known cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, but there is treatment designed to lessen the most bothersome symptoms. Dry eyes usually respond to the use of artificial tears applied regularly during the day or gels applied at night. Dry mouth can be treated by drinking water, chewing gum, or using saliva substitutes.
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