Never heard of Sjogren’s Syndrome?
Don’t feel bad if you have never heard of Sjogren’s Syndrome; recently, only twenty percent of some five hundred women polled had heard of the condition. At this point, you may be thinking, "what is so important about Sjogren’s syndrome?"
Sjogren’s Syndrome affects approximately four million Americans, mostly women between the ages of forty and sixty. As with most autoimmune disorders, women are most often affected (ninety percent of individuals with this condition are women).
So just what is Sjogren’s syndrome? Sjogren’s Syndrome is an incurable autoimmune connective tissue disease (related to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis) in which the body’s immune system attacks moisture-producing glands (exocrine glands) causing dryness of the eyes, mouth, skin, and vagina. In addition to problems with dryness, Sjogren’s syndrome sufferers often experience fatigue.
Sjorgren’s is the second most common autoimmune disorder in the United States. So, now, you’re thinking "if it is so common why have I not heard about it?" The answer is simple. The vast majority of Sjogren’s sufferers are not aware they even have the disorder. Since Sjogren’s syndrome most often affects women who are forty – sixty years old, many women associate Sjogren’s symptoms with those of menopause and disregard them. And for some, the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are mild enough that they never experience symptoms severe enough or debilitating enough to warrant further examination.
However, the symptoms of Sjogren’s should not be ignored. Left untreated, Sjogren’s can lead to more significant problems such as gastrointestinal or muscular problems, tooth decay, oral ulcers, or even inflammation of internal organs such as the lungs. In fact, approximately ten percent of all Sjogren’s syndrome patients suffer from inflammation of internal organs, which may lead to death.
More importantly, women should be careful about what symptoms they are attributing to menopause or the aging process. If you are experiencing dryness of the eyes, mouth, skin, or vagina, have your physician run a few tests to make sure that these symptoms are menopausal symptoms. Your physician can determine if Sjogren’s affects you through blood tests, lip biopsy, and other dry mouth or eye tests.
For those diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, there is no known cure, however there are treatments to reduce the effects of Sjogren’s. Most often, this condition is treated with palliative moisturizers to relieve dryness, and medications such as anti-inflammatory medication, anti malarial medications, and sialogogues (stimulate the glands to produce moisture).
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