Sjogren’s Syndrome – What is it & possible preventive measures

A disease of the autoimmune system which attacks and destroys the glands responsible for moisturising and lubricating the eyes, mouth and many other organs of the body is referred to as Sjogren’s Syndrome. This is the reason ‘dry eyes’ is among the most common symptom associated to the anomaly!

While men and women of any age, caste or race can develop the Sjogren’s Syndrome, it’s more prevalent amongCaucasian females with the inception beginning between the age of 40 and 60. The Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation (SSF) assessed that more or less four million Americans have been identified with the disease with 90% among women.

Since dry eyes are a unique feature of the syndrome, people are mostly unaware of the underlying condition with the actual disease going unreported. Another medical research concluded that every one in ten dry eye patients are diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome. Perhaps the biggest drawback is the accurate diagnosis which can take more or less four years or longer.

Causes
During the disease cycle, an individual’s white cells, tissues and organs are attacked and damaged. A human’s immune system is capable to identify its own organs and body parts as “friendly” and activates only to prevent from any harmful or ‘foreign’ substance like viruses and bacteria. However, abnormal immune responses can be congenital or associated to previous bacterial or viral infections.

Occurrence of Sjogren’s Syndrome can be primary (alone) or it may occur besides other autoimmune anomalies like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus or scleroderma (secondary-grade Sjogren’s syndrome). If you’ve significant discomfort in the eye, it’s better to consult an expert ophthalmologist who’s surely able to diagnose the underlying reason.

Symptoms
The common or classical symptoms of this disease aredry eyes and mouth, pain in the joints and fatigue. Some other symptoms may include;

– Sore mouth, throat and tongue
– Discomforting contact lenses
– Frequent occurrence of dry sinuses or nosebleeds
– Difficulty in swallowing and chewing
– Blepharitis
– Dry lips and skin
– Pain in the muscle without any associated inflammation

Constant gritty and burning sensation, blurred vision and sensitivity to light are other underlying symptoms related to the Sjogren’s Syndrome. Schirmer’s test is performed along with several other tests for confirm diagnosis of the disease. During the test, a small test paper strip is inserted under the tip of lower eyelid to measure the amount of tears produced in a certain time (mostly five minutes).

Some other tests include dyes which colour the tears you produce that are examined by the ophthalmologist using a microscope. This particular test determines quickness of the tear evaporation and if the damage laid any affect to the cornea or conjunctiva. Quality and amount of saliva produced in the mouth is also measured sometimes for the detection ofSjogren’s Syndrome.

Treatment & preventive measure
Sjogren’s Syndrome which causes dry eye may require ongoing treatment with certain ointments, artificial tears and remedies. Since tears evaporate too quickly, lipid and oil-based eye drops are often prescribed that can be really helpful. The drops slow evaporation of the tears so that the eyes stay moist longer between the blinks. Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed by the doctor.

Conclusion
Pay close attention to underlying causes of diseases for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

By: Hassaan Javaid

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