What is Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is a disease characterised by a permanent inflammatory state in the saliva and tear glands. It is most common in women and is often diagnosed among 30-50-year-olds.
What are the symptoms?
The condition is characterised by dry mouth, dry eyes and a general feeling of fatigue throughout the body. The symptoms include:
Eyes that dry out to an extend that feels like they have sand in them
Pain and itching in the eyes
Increased risk of dental decay
Joint and muscle pain
What are the causes?
The cause of the disease is still unknown, but it has been shown that it often occurs in connection with a rheumatic disorder or autoimmune illness. An auto-immune illness causes the patient’s body to attack itself. Today, it is suggested that this is due to environmental factors triggering the inflammatory state of the people that are hereditarily predisposed to it.
How does it affect everyday life?
When the saliva glands can no longer produce spit, you also lose the protective function for the teeth. It is difficult to keep the teeth clean, and the risk of cavities increases. The lack of spit production also affects the food intake as it become difficult to swallow the food, especially dry food.
How is it diagnosed?
The condition is diagnosed by the physician examining or asking about the mentioned symptoms, as these are criteria in order for the condition to be active. Furthermore, blood samples will be taken in order to determine whether antibodies indicating that the body is attacking itself are present. In case of a suspected condition with reduced tear production, a paper strip is used for examination. The reduced saliva production will be examined by having the patient consume something dry, such as a biscuit. If saliva production is normal, it should take about 20 seconds to swallow the biscuit. However, if the production is reduced, it will take longer. Further, a tissue sample from the lips may be necessary.
What are the treatments?
The condition cannot be cured, but physicians will try to relieve the symptoms instead. This can be achieved with artificial eye fluid which counteracts dry eyes – this is a non-prescriptive drug. Dryness of the mouth can be relieved by consuming fluids, preferably sugar free fluids. In addition, it is recommended to chew gum to stimulate the saliva glands. The pain in joints and muscles can be relieved with painkillers, such as paracetamol. In case of arthritis, a specialist will carry out the treatment.