It is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that causes dryness, particularly in the eyes and mouth. In autoimmune diseases the immune system does not function properly and attacks healthy tissues, causing damage and inflammation.
In this syndrome, the cells of the immune system, known as lymphocytes, which are the ones that fight infections, attack the normal cells of the exocrine glands, which secrete the moisturizing substances of the eyes, mouth and other tissues. This generates inflammation and destruction of the exocrine glands, which prevents the production of moisturizing substances.
There are two types of Sjögren's syndrome, primary and secondary. The primary form occurs by itself and has no relationship with other diseases. Secondary Sjögren's syndrome occurs with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus or myositis.
More than one million people in the United States have Sjögren's syndrome and it affects individuals of any race or age, although 90% of those who present it are women. This syndrome is less common in people younger than 20 years. The risk of having this disorder increases if someone in your family has this or any other autoimmune disease.
In addition to dryness, Sjögren's syndrome can cause problems in other parts of the body. Among them are inflammation of the joints leading to arthritis, as well as inflammation of the lungs, kidneys, liver, nerves, thyroid and skin.
How to prevent it?
It is currently unknown what may be the best way to prevent Sjögren's syndrome. Patients suffering from this disease should visit the specialist regularly, including the dentist and the ophthalmologist.
If they are already diagnosed, it is also recommended that they follow the prescribed treatment in order to completely eradicate the symptoms in the shortest possible time.
Is there any evidence for Sjögren's syndrome?
Sjögren's syndrome is diagnosed through:
• Some eye exams (Schirmer's exam) and mouth
• Blood tests (antinuclear antibodies)
Due to the lack of knowledge of its causes, the diagnosis will be based on the observation of dry eyes and mouth, as well as the affections to other organs through early detection of the syndrome. The specialist will perform a review of the clinical history to detect autoimmune diseases in family members and will ask the patient to describe their symptoms.
Similarly, study possible changes in the eyes, mouth or salivary glands, as well as analyze if there is an enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, muscle weakness or inflammation in the joints appears.
How is Sjögren's syndrome treated?
The treatment is different for each person and depends on which parts of the body are affected. Treatment will focus on eliminating symptoms and may include:
• Medications for pain in the muscles and joints.
• Drugs that help produce more saliva.
• Medications to eliminate inflammation (such as corticosteroids).
• Drugs that decrease the action of the immune system.
The treatment for this syndrome will be based on alleviating the symptoms. To do this, dry eyes will be treated with artificial tears, lubricating ointments for the eyes or liquid cyclosporine in eye drops.
Other measures that can be taken to treat it are:
• Take sips of water throughout the day.
• Chewing gum without sugar.
• Avoid alcohol intake.
• Dispense medications that can cause dry mouth, such as antihistamines or decongestants.
On the other hand, the patient may consult with the dentist to use rinses to replace minerals in the teeth or ways to prevent cavities caused by dry mouth, such as regular cleaning or brushing teeth and the use of dental floss.
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