It is estimated that approximately 1 to 4 million Americans are living with Sjogren's disease. The disease affects more women than men, and those who are diagnosed are often 40 years of age or older. There is no cure for Sjogren's disease, but treatments are available that can ease the symptoms. Artificial tears and corticosteroids are among the most common pharmaceuticals used for treating patients diagnosed with Sjogren's disease.
What Is Sjogren's Disease?
Sjogren's disease is an immune system disorder that has no known cause. According to the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness (NFCA), Sjogren's disease sufferers have an overactive immune system that actually attacks the body's cells. In fact, the lymphocytes that are naturally created within the immune system to combat bacteria and infection attack the moisture glands instead.
Dry Eyes, Nose and Skin
Dry eyes are a classic symptom of Sjogren's disease. Sjogrens.org reports that dryness of the eye can lead to more severe eye complications such as corneal ulcerations and eye infections. But the attack on the moisture-producing glands also causes dryness in the nasal cavity, which can lead to a burning sensation in the nose and frequent nose bleeds. Lack of moisture can lead to skin rashes and dry, scaly skin. It can also cause vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.
The Mayo Clinic reports that Sjogren's disease patients may experience dry mouth, a condition that can causes difficulty swallowing, cavities and loss of taste. Dry mouth often leads to a condition known as oral candidiasis, which is a yeast infection.
Joint Pain, Fatigue and Numbness
According to the Arthritis Foundation, Sjogren's disease can cause extreme fatigue that can interfere with quality of life. The disease can cause numbness and tingling in the extremities due to peripheral nervous system impairments that can even cause some patients to experience numbness of the face. Rheumatic disorders such as arthritis and joint pain are other common symptoms associated with Sjogren's disease.
Sjogren's disease is often responsible for connective tissue disorders that result in inflammation. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) of Bethesda, Maryland, this inflammation sometimes leads to lung problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These conditions are often a direct result of lymphocytes entering the lungs.
The liver is often affected by immune disorders, so it is no surprise that patients diagnosed with Sjogren's disease also experience liver problems. Liver enlargement or elevated liver counts are among the most common disorders associated with Sjogren's disease.
In the book "The New Sjogren's Syndrome Handbook," author Steven E. Carson explains that pancreatitis is also a symptom of Sjogren's disease. He theorizes that the pancreas is similar in structure to the salivary glands; Inflammations in both cause an increase in amylase. Amylase is the enzyme that helps in the digestion of carbohydrates, and laboratory tests can detect increased levels, which can help in the diagnosis of Sjogren's disease.