What is Sjogren’s Syndrome?
Sjogren’s Syndrome (pronounced show-grins) is an autoimmune disease. As with other autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. The cells attacked in Sjogren’s are the moisture producing glands in the body. Sjogren’s can either be primary or secondary. When there are no other illnesses associated with it, it is know as primary. Secondary is when there is presence of other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Although I am not a doctor, I have been living with secondary Sjogren’s for the last 35 year.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s
Dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms of Sjogren’s. For me, dry eyes have always been my worst symptom. Many days I look like I have pink eye when it is really just the extreme inflammation irritating my eyes. By the end of the day it is all I can do to keep my eyes open. In addition, other symptoms associated with the disease include joint pain, digestive problems, vaginal dryness and extreme fatigue. And lucky me, I have all of these symptoms. Fortunately the extreme fatigue comes and goes. If you have never experienced extreme fatigue, it is like trying to function with a bad case of the flu. Furthermore, every ounce of your body hurts and the weakness is overwhelming.
Treatments for Sjogren’s
Although there isn’t a cure for Sjogren’s there are treatments to help with the symptoms. Several prescription medicines are available to help with dryness. Restasis is a prescription eye drop. Personally this made my dry eyes worse and I can’t use it. There is also a prescription called Salagen. It is a pill which helps with dryness of the mouth and eyes. This is a prescription I use but it seems to be hit and miss as to whether or not it works. Using night time eye lubricant and moisturizing eye drops such as TheraTears can definitely help. For dry mouth, I always have a drink such as water or herbal tea nearby.
While the autoimmune diseases I have sometimes limit my capabilities, I consider myself fortunate to be able to get up every day and live a meaningful life. This young lady at “Life According to Kenz” says it well:
Finally, you can read more about Sjogren’s at Mayo Clinic.