Sjogren’s syndrome – Chronic autoimmune disease

Sjogren’s syndrome is a rheumatic disease whose main symptoms are severe dryness of the eyes and mouth. It is a lifelong illness where you feel better and worse for periods.

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease. This means that it is a disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissue, such as cells, muscle tissue and mucous membranes. The task of the immune system is to defend the body against attacks from viruses and bacteria. In Sjogren’s syndrome, the immune system primarily attacks the salivary glands and the glands, which causes the body to produce less saliva and tears.

Better and worse in periods

The disease is chronic, which means that it cannot be cured, but there is treatment to get the symptoms. Sjogren’s syndrome is a disease that usually goes into so-called forest. This means that you get better and worse in periods. Sjogren’s syndrome is much more common in women than men. The causes of the disease are not entirely clear, but it is hereditary and can sometimes occur as a result of infections or altered hormonal balance. Sjogren’s syndrome is very uncommon in children.

Sjogren’s syndrome is usually divided into primary and secondary disease types. In primary disease, Sjogren’s syndrome is the main disease. In secondary you also have another rheumatic disease, such as SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) or arthritis.

Symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome

The most common symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry, red and/or stinging eyes
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Dryness of the genital area
  • Joint pain and muscle pain
  • Dry skin
  • Stomach Problems
  • vascular disorders
  • Dry mouth

Because Sjogren’s syndrome infects the salivary glands and produces less saliva, it causes dry mouth. When you have dry mouth, the risk of caries, holes in the teeth increases. You may need to drink more frequently to moisturize your mouth and facilitate eating, speaking and other activities. The dryness of the mouth can make it difficult to swallow without drinking at the same time. Dryness in the nose and throat is also a common consequence of Sjogren’s syndrome, and this can lead to nasal bleeding, dry cough and hoarseness, for example.

Dry eyes and other eye symptoms

Dry eyes in Sjogren’s syndrome can lead to irritation, light sensitivity, abomination and pain in the eyes. The eyes can become red and stinging. The eye symptoms occur because the tear production of the eyes is reduced. In extreme exceptional cases, serious eye complications can occur due to the dryness.

Chronic fatigue

Abnormal fatigue is one of the most typical symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome and most suffer from it to some extent. The underlying cause of the fatigue is not clear. The fatigue is not believed to be due to the inflammation that results from the disease. The debilitating symptoms of the disease are believed to be a factor that leads to fatigue due to poor sleep.

Dryness of the genital area

Sjogren’s syndrome often leads to dry mucous membranes of the genital area. Dry mucous membranes increase the risk of fungal infections and lead to pain during intercourse. These symptoms can be exacerbated when you enter menopause.

Joint pain and muscle pain

Many people with Sjogren’s syndrome have joint pain, especially in small joints. The most common place to get pain is the hands and fingers. The joint pain usually arises in the morning. Muscle pain with fibromyalgia-like symptoms is common in those with Sjogren’s syndrome. In exceptional cases, muscle weakness may also occur.

Dry skin

Dry skin troubles many people with the disease and can lead to itching, rashes and irritation. You can become sun-sensitive and have a blushing skin rash, called purpura. In some cases, the skin rash can swell, hurt and lead to movement restrictions. This occurs mainly in younger people who suffer from Sjogren’s syndrome.

Stomach Problems

Different types of stomach problems are common. It can be nausea, pain, constipation and/or diarrhea. Inflammation of the pancreas is another possible consequence of Sjogren’s syndrome. Those who suffer from Sjogren’s syndrome more often have stomach disorders such as gastritis, gluten intolerance (celiac disease) and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Vascular disorders

Sjogren’s syndrome is linked to a vessel disorder called Raynaud’s phenomenon. Raynaud’s phenomenon is also usually called white fingers, since the central symptom is that, for example, the fingers become white during a seizure. More serious vascular disorders occur, but are rare.

Examination and diagnosis

When a doctor investigates suspected Sjogren’s syndrome, a number of criteria are weighed. You may take a number of samples such as saliva samples, tear fluid measurement, tissue samples and blood tests. The examinations are usually done by specialists in hospitals or dentists. Once the doctor has obtained the result of all the tests, they are compiled based on predetermined criteria for diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome.

Treatment of Sjogren’s syndrome

Since Sjogren’s syndrome cannot be cured, the treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms. When a doctor diagnoses Sjogren’s syndrome, you receive treatment for the various symptoms and the right to dental care. The treatment is often a combination of several different drugs that, for example, stimulate saliva, increase tear production and attenuate inflammation in the body.

Cortisone ointment can help with eczema and other skin disorders due to the dryness of the skin. If you have dry mucous membranes in the genital area, you can take vagitories, drugs that are brought into the genital area and relieve the problems. If you have joint pain and muscle pain, a special exercise program can be designed together with a physical therapist. For joint pain, muscle pain and other pain, you can also take non-prescription painkillers. If the pain is so severe that the non-prescription drugs help, you can talk to your doctors about getting stronger medicines.

Sjogren’s syndrome and pregnancy

Sjogren’s syndrome usually does not make it more difficult to get pregnant. However, other diseases or drugs can affect. Because there are small risks of serious complications when you have the disease and you are pregnant, maternal care usually follows the pregnancy closely. Sometimes a special cortisone treatment may be needed, and in some cases a heart specialist is present at birth to see everything is going well.

Living with Sjogren’s syndrome

Most people with Sjogren’s syndrome feel good when they have found the right treatment for their symptoms. Since the symptoms of the disease often occur in the forest, you can periodically become worse and very tired. You may need to be partially sick during these periods. When you have diagnosed Sjogren’s syndrome, you go on a regular doctor’s visit, including to see that you do not develop other diseases.

When should you seek care?

If you think you have Sjogren’s syndrome, you should contact a health care center. You should also seek care at a health care center for prolonged dryness (two to three months) in the eyes, mouth or abdomen.

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