Sjogrens disease affects the immune system, causing dry mouth and dry eyes. This condition is often present along with other immune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It affects the glands in the mouth and eyes responsible for secreting moisture, resulting in a decrease in saliva and tears. Typically, this disorder most commonly affects women and those over the age of 40.
Symptoms of Sjogrens Disease
The two most common symptoms of Sjogrens disease are dry eyes and mouth. You may experience a burning, itchy feeling in your eyes. They may also feel gritty as if they contain sand. You may have difficulty speaking or swallowing and your mouth may feel as if it is filled with cotton.
Other reported symptoms include:
• Stiffness, swelling, or pain in the joints
• Swollen salivary glands, especially those in front of the ears and behind the jaw
• Dry skin or rash
• Vaginal dryness
• Dry, persistent cough
To determine if you have Sjogrens disease, your doctor may order a Sjogrens diagnostic test panel from Trinity Biotech.
What Causes Sjogrens Disease?
Sjogrens disease is classified as an autoimmune disorder, which means that the immune system attacks the tissues and cells of the own body by mistake. Experts are not sure of the exact cause of the disease. While some people have certain genes that make them more prone to developing the disease, it usually requires some kind of trigger such as a viral or bacterial infection.
While the first areas affected by the disease are the glands responsible for tears and salvia, other parts of the body may be affected as well, including:
Who Is at Risk?
Sjogrens disease most often occurs in people with one or more risk factors, such as:
• Over the age of 40
• Rheumatic diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
Possible Complications Associated with Sjogrens Disease
Since saliva is necessary to protect teeth from bacteria, someone with this disease is more prone to developing cavities. Likewise, they may also develop oral thrush, which is a type of yeast infection that occurs inside the mouth. Dry eyes caused by Sjogrens disease can lead to blurry vision, light sensitivity, and corneal damage.
While not as common, other complications involving the liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph nodes, and nerves may occur. Inflammation in the lungs could lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, and other problems. Impaired kidney function could lead to liver cirrhosis or hepatitis. A small percentage of Sjogrens disease suffers may develop cancer of the lymph nodes. Finally, some may experience peripheral neuropathy, which presents as burning, tingling, or numbness in the feet and hands.