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Sjögren’s Syndrome Symptoms To Be Cautious About

dry and itchy eyes

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  • People who may have Sjögren’s syndrome can experience numerous symptoms. However, there are two main indicators for this autoimmune disorder
  • Inflammation can affect the lacrimal or tear gland near the eyes and trigger dry eyes or xerophthalmia. Patients may develop dry mouth, too, which is another common symptom

People who may have Sjögren’s syndrome can experience numerous symptoms. However, there are two main indicators for this autoimmune disorder.

Inflammation caused by Sjögren’s syndrome can affect the lacrimal or tear gland near the eyes and trigger dry eyes or xerophthalmia. As a result, patients may experience eye itchiness and/or irritation, burning sensation, lessened tear production, grittiness (as if sand has entered the eyes), infection/s, serious corneal abrasion/s, blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) and/or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (if the eyes become inflamed because of dryness).1

Because Sjögren’s syndrome can target the salivary glands too, patients may develop dry mouth, which is another common symptom. According to the Mayo Clinic, the patient may feel like their mouth has been stuffed with cotton. Symptoms that may accompany dry mouth include:2,3

Swallowing or speaking difficulties

Dental problems like tooth decay, cavities or gum disease

Mouth sores and swelling

Hoarseness or impaired voice

Abnormality and/or loss of taste

Dry cough

Stones and/or infection of the parotid gland located in the cheeks

Other Symptoms Associated With Sjögren’s Syndrome

People with Sjögren’s syndrome may also experience the following problems:4

  • Joint pain, swelling and stiffness, and/or fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Dry skin
  • Swelling of salivary glands behind the jaw and in front of the ears

It’s also possible for your breathing pathways to be affected, as inflammation may develop in the lining of this important area of your respiratory system.

Sjögren’s syndrome may have repercussions on your reproductive health too, particularly for women. The inflammation may spread to the vagina and this may predispose some women to feel pain during sexual intercourse and/or develop vaginal infections. Health problems linked to Sjögren’s syndrome do not stop here, however, because these extraglandular (outside of the glands) problems may occur as well:5

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (numb and/or cold sensations that develop in some body parts as a response to cold temperatures or stress6)
  • Lung inflammation
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Joint, kidney and nerve pain
  • Muscle disease with muscle pain and weakness

If you or someone you know exhibits any of these indicators for Sjögren's syndrome, seek medical care immediately to prevent the condition from worsening and help address the disease before it leads to major implications for your health.

How a Sjögren’s Syndrome Diagnosis Is Determined

While there are methods that may help a doctor diagnose Sjögren's syndrome and rule out other diseases, take note that diagnosing this illness may be tricky because:

  • Symptoms that one Sjögren's syndrome patient experiences can be different from what manifests in another patient
  • Symptoms can resemble those triggered by other diseases
  • Medicines may cause some side effects that resemble symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome

If your doctor feels that you may be affected by Sjögren's syndrome, they can order the following tests:7

Blood tests: These tests aim to check the amount of blood cells and antibodies linked to Sjögren's syndrome in a person’s body, indicators of inflammation, and liver and/or kidney problems. Some of the blood tests that may be used to check for Sjögren's syndrome, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, include:

ANA (antinuclear antibody) blood test

RF (rheumatoid factor) blood test

SS-A and SS-B (Sjögren's syndrome) antibody blood markers

ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) blood test

IGs (immunoglobulins) blood test

Eye tests: A Schirmer tear test can be recommended to measure both eye dryness and tear production. This involves placing a small piece of filter paper underneath the lower eyelid. Other tests doctors can consider include Rose Bengal and Lissamine Green tests.

Your eyes may also be checked by an ophthalmologist for corneal damage. After placing a few drops onto your eye, the ophthalmologist then uses a magnifying device called a slit lamp.

Imaging: If your salivary glands have been affected, their current state can be inspected using these imaging tests:

Sialogram: There are two steps involved in this special form of X-ray. First, a special dye is injected into the patient’s salivary glands found in front of the ears. Afterward, an X-ray will then monitor the dye so the doctor will see how much saliva enters the mouth. 

Salivary scintigraphy: This involves a radioactive isotope being injected into a patient’s vein. The said substance is then tracked for over one hour to see how fast it reaches the salivary glands.

Lip biopsy: A small piece of tissue from the salivary glands in the lip is removed and scrutinized under a microscope. This method aims to determine if there are inflammatory cells in your mouth that can be linked to Sjögren's syndrome.

Aside from the aforementioned methods, a point-based test can be done by rheumatologists to see if indicators of other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple sclerosis, might be related to Sjögren's syndrome. Should test results yield a higher number of points, it may indicate that the patient already has Sjögren's syndrome.8


Sjögren's Syndrome: An Introduction

What Is Sjögren's Syndrome?

Sjögren's Syndrome Symptoms

Sjögren's Syndrome Causes

Sjögren's Syndrome Treatment

Sjögren's Syndrome Prevention

Sjögren's Syndrome Diet

Sjögren's Syndrome FAQ

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