Sjogren’s syndrome (SS) is a disorder that occurs when a person’s normally protective immune system attacks its own body and destroys moisture-producing glands. The bowel, lungs, and other organs are less often affected by SS.
Many people develop the syndrome as a complication of another autoimmune disease, like – lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Most sufferers with SS are women, especially women aged between 40 and 60. In the US, approximately 4 million people have the syndrome (0.5 to 1 percent of the population).
- primary form – it occurs if you do not have other rheumatic diseases;
- secondary form – it is diagnosed when a patient has another autoimmune disease. It accounts for fifty percent of Sjögren’s cases.
Symptoms of SS include:
- a dry mouth – signs that you may have a dry mouth include: problems such as tooth decay, cracked skin at the corners of your lips, a change in how food tastes, a red tongue, a hoarse voice, your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth, needing to drink water while eating to help you swallow food, feeling like food gets stuck in your throat or mouth;
- dry eyes – signs that you may have dry eyes include: blurred vision, sticky eyelids when you wake up, discomfort when looking at lights, red and swollen eyelids, a feeling of sand in your eyes, or stinging or itchy eyes;
- rashes, especially after being out in the sun;
- dry skin;
- swelling between the jaw and ears;
- muscle or joint pain;
- vaginal dryness;
SS is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your body’s own tissues, mainly salivary and lacrimal glands. This causes the main symptoms of SS, that are dry mouth and dry eyes.
In women, the glands which keep the vagina moist can also be affected. This leads to vaginal dryness.
SS is also a rheumatic disease, which affects:
Diagnosing SS is often done by a rheumatologist and involves a number of tests, that may include:
- blood tests – they can determine the presence of antibodies typical of the disease;
- biopsy – during this test a small piece of salivary gland tissue is removed and examined under a microscope;
- Schirmer’s test – during this test a special blotting paper is held to the eye and is used to assess the degree of tear production.
There is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome. Treatment is directed toward relieving complications and symptoms in the areas of the body which are involved, like – the mouth, eyes, and vagina.
Medications prescribed depend on your symptoms and include:
- Evoxac (a parasympathomimetic and muscarinic agonist);
Note – to prevent cavities and tooth loss which may occur as a complication of Sjögren’s, all patients should receive regular dental care.
The best option is to choose a regular diet which is high in fruits, legumes, and vegetables and low in saturated and trans-fats. Research also suggests that omega-3 essential fatty acids may help relieve symptoms of dry eyes. Foods rich in omega 3 include:
- flax seeds;
- chia seeds;
- red kidney beans;
- navy beans.
Alcoholic beverages should also be avoided.
The prognosis of this syndrome is generally good. But, if the lungs, lymph nodes, and kidneys are damaged by the antibodies, kidney failure, pneumonia, or lymphoma may result.
Here Are 3 Famous People With Sjogren’s Syndrome:
#1 Shannon Boxx
She is a former member of the United States women’s national soccer team and an American retired soccer player. She used to play as a defensive midfielder.
In 2002, Shannon was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, however, she didn’t let SS hold her back. For instance, in 2003, Shannon Boxx played in her first World Cup and won a gold medal with the United States team at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
In 2005, Boxx helped Notre Dame win the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship. On October 21, 2015, Shannon played her last game when the USWNT tied with Brazil as part of their victory tour.
She is now taking SS awareness to communities around the US by stepping up as the SSF Honorary Walkabout Chairperson.
#2 Nina Rawls
Nina Rawls is the widow of the renowned Lou Rawls – an American songwriter, singer, actor, and record producer who sold more than 40 million records and released more than 60 albums.
In 2011, Nine Rawls was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome.
In a recent interview, she said – ”I’m learning that although there is no cure for the SS, there are treatments which will prevent further complications and can greatly improve my troubling symptoms.”
#3 Venus Williams
She is an American professional tennis player who is generally regarded as one of the greatest players in women’s tennis.
Venus won an Olympic gold medal and seven Grand Slam titles in singles play. With 49 singles titles, she trails only her sister (Serena) among active players on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour.
In 2011, she temporarily withdrew from the U.S. Open after Venus received a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome.
During an interview, she stated – ”I couldn’t raise my arm over my head, the racket felt like concrete. I had no feeling in my hands. They were swollen and itchy. I realized it would be a miserable show.”