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An immune system disorder distinguished by dry mouth and dry eyes is known as Sjogren’s Syndrome. It can also cause dryness in places that require moisture, such as throat, nose and skin. Sjogren’s syndrome is often linked to other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (disease in which the immune system destroys its own tissues and causes inflammations). Sjogren’s syndrome normally affects people over the age of 40, and it mostly affects women.
Sjogren’s syndrome has mainly two symptoms, and they include:
- Dry eyes: You feel like there is sand in your eyes as it burns and itches
- Dry mouth: You have difficulty speaking or swallowing
Sometimes, you might experience other symptoms as well, such as:
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Inflamed salivary glands
- Dry skin or skin rashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Continuous dry coughs
- Sustained fatigue
The exact cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is not known, but research strongly suggests that the autoimmune disease could be caused by genetic factors; especially if the illness has been found in more than one member of the family. Also, families with members suffering from type I diabetes, lupus and autoimmune thyroid disease can cause one or more members of the family to develop Sjogren’s syndrome.
The complications of Sjogren’s syndrome include:
- Dental cavities: Saliva protects the teeth from harmful bacteria that cause cavities. Since your mouth is dry, you become more susceptible to develop cavities.
- Yeast infections: Oral thrush, an oral yeast infection, is likely to develop if you have Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Vision problems: Dry eyes can cause corneal ulcers, sensitivity and blurred vision.
- Problems in the lungs, liver or kidneys: Inflammations can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia in your lungs; may cause cirrhosis or hepatitis C in your liver; and may lead to kidney malfunctions.
- Lymphoma: Some people with Sjogren’s syndrome might develop lymphoma, or lymph node cancer.
Peripheral neuropathy: Another complication of this illness is peripheral neuropathy, which is a tingling, burning and numbness sensation felt in your feet and hands.
Sjogren’s syndrome is either treated with drugs, or with surgery. Doctors may prescribe drugs to increase the production of saliva and to treat inflammations. Alternatively, surgery is done to either seal the tear ducts or insert silicon or collagen plugs to close the ducts temporarily. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a doctor.