Coping with the Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome
The common autoimmune ailment primarily affects women
Given that Sjogren's syndrome is a disease suffered by between 1 and 4 million people in the United States, with 90 percent of those afflicted being women, it is surprising that this condition is given so little media attention.
An autoimmune ailment, which is suspected to be genetically inherited, Sjogren's syndrome or a similar autoimmune condition is frequently found within the extended family of the sufferer.
Symptoms may include excessive dryness of the eyes, mouth, nose, sinuses and skin. This can lead to serious infection, as natural moisture serves as a protectant.
Inflammation of glands and other bodily tissues can also cause complications such as joint pain and inflammation, swelling of lung tissue and lymph nodes, as well as nerve, muscle and kidney disease.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is another condition which is linked to Sjogren's syndrome, and this can cause improperly fluctuating thyroid levels. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a complication causing great intestinal discomfort, often due to dry-mouth related swallowing and digestion difficulty.
Sjogren's syndrome generally affects women 40 and older, and can be diagnosed with blood tests and a saliva-gland biopsy, if needed for confirmation. People suffering from Sjogren's syndrome create different antibodies which attack their own tissue. Several types of blood tests measuring the values of these antibodies are used to verify the diagnosis.
Because symptoms can be so diverse and also reflective of other conditions, it is important to ascertain a correct diagnosis, generally from a specialist experienced in rheumatology.
There is no cure currently for Sjogren's syndrome, so most sufferers are directed by their physicians to treat each symptom as it may arise. For a Sjogren's patient it is essential to maintain excellent eye, ear, nose, throat, dental and gynecological care to prevent any type of infection or injury to areas which may easily become inflamed or injured due to dryness.
Women may experience vaginal dehydration, similar to that in menopause, as Sjogren's can affect internal organ tissue as well as external. A woman suffering from Sjogren's may benefit from naturally compounded hormone treatment, which is a more natural form of therapy.
This type of hormonal enhancement must be created specifically for the individual, following testing. In our area, Emerson Pharmacy specializes in testing and dispensing of naturally compounded hormones.
- Eyes Need Protection. Regular sunglasses as well as reading sunglasses are necessary all year round to keep dry eyes from damage. Use moisturizing drops as prescribed by your doctor.
- Go Gently With Wipes. Use scent-free tissues and toilet paper enhanced with aloe and lotion.
- Be Good To Your Nose. Make use of unscented saline sprays which moisturize the nasal passages, as well as gentle sinus cleansing agents. Use rub-on products like Ayr to protect nose from drying allergens and pollutants.
- Be Clean But Kind. To your skin, that is. Use lined rubber gloves when cleaning your home. Use products that are effective but not harsh. Avoid direct contact with bleach, ammonia and other cleaning solvents that can dry or irritate skin.
- Keep Cool. Burning hot showers are not ideal for dry skin. Bathe in temperate water and try to avoid too much toweling off. Air-drying your body helps to preserve moisture. Use an after-shower treatment, such as Neutrogena Body Oil to seal moisture into your skin. Avoid blow-drying hair as the heat can also dry out your scalp and skin.
People with Sjogern's need to consider their dietary habits. Avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, sugar and acidic fruits can be beneficial. Alcohol is particularly drying to the inside of the mouth, as are many carbonated drinks. It's best to avoid foods that are served at very hot temperatures, as well as rough, irritating snacks, like popcorn, hard tortilla chips and nuts.
For many, a gluten-free diet helps on many counts, as the removal of all wheat and wheat related products often reduces inflammation throughout the body. Switching to a gluten-free diet may take some time and a bit of extra effort, but there are many local and nearby shops that feature an excellent array of gluten-free choices, such as:
Sjogren's syndrome affects people differently. Some may experience an array of serious symptoms while others simply suffer from the discomforts of dry mouth or skin. Sometimes over the course of a lifetime the symptoms may wax and wane in frequency and seriousness. Again, this is why most physicians urge sufferers to treat symptoms as they arise and use as much preventative common sense as possible on a daily basis.
If you are diagnosed with Sjogren's, panicking or ignoring the symptoms is definitely not going to help. Find a doctor familiar with the condition and make regular visits to discuss any changes, small or large. Attend to any symptom that may arise quickly, rather than trying to wait it out.
Most of all, with Sjogren's as with any other condition that affects your health: educate yourself well, and care for your symptoms with kindness, consistency and compassion.