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Sjogren's Syndrome; Facts to Know.

Women are nine times more likely than men to develop Sjogren's (pronounced 'show-grins') syndrome, a chronic, incurable disorder in which immune system cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva. Sjogren's can occur at any age, but women are at higher risk after menopause.

The hallmark symptoms of Sjogren's are dry eyes and dry mouth. The disorder may also cause skin, nose and vaginal dryness, and, in rare cases, affect other organs of the body as well, including your kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas and brain.

The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation estimates that four million Americans suffer from this disorder; many go undiagnosed.

The syndrome, named after Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjogren, is an autoimmune disorder-which means that your immune system attacks your body's own healthy tissues. Ordinarily, the immune system produces antibodies that target such destructive material as viruses and bacteria. In the case of Sjogren's and other autoimmune diseases, autoantibodies-antibodies turned against the self-are produced.

Sjogren's syndrome may occur alone (primary Sjogren's syndrome), or it may be a symptom of other autoimmune/rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, polymyositis and some forms of scleroderma (secondary Sjogren's syndrome).

A blood marker often found in women with Sjogren's syndrome can, very rarely, be associated with heart problems in newborn babies. If you have Sjogren's syndrome and plan to become pregnant, see your health care professional about testing for this marker and deciding what to do if the marker is present.

There is no cure for Sjogren's syndrome, and no treatment has yet been found to restore total glandular secretions. This means that treatment addresses the symptoms only, and is designed to relieve your discomfort and lessen the effects of dryness. Put another way, you can generally learn to manage your condition, but the root problems will remain.

Much about Sjogren's is still unknown. As yet, no single gene, microorganism or hormone has been implicated as a cause of Sjogren's syndrome. Sadly, there's no way to prevent the onset of Sjogren's syndrome. However, the symptoms are often treatable, and you can develop strategies for keeping some symptoms at bay.

A healthy diet is part of taking care of yourself under any circumstances, and it's doubly important if you have Sjogren's. You should probably avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages; they are dehydrating, and can contribute to increased dryness. Spicy and acidic food can also irritate your mouth, and sugary food can promote further tooth decay.

Since Sjogren's syndrome affects everyone differently, your treatment plan will be based on your specific needs. In general, moisture-replacement therapies may ease the symptoms of dryness. In some cases, your health care professional may recommend a simple operation that blocks tear drainage from your eye.

References

"Sjogren's Syndrome." Sjogren's World. Copyright 2005. http://www.sjogrensworld.org. Accessed June 7, 2005.

"Sjogren's Syndrome." Arthritis Foundation. Copyright 2004. http://www.arthritis.org. Accessed June 7, 2005.

"Sjogren's Syndrome Information Page." The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated February 9, 2005. http://www.ninds.nih.gov. Accessed June 7, 2005.

"About Sjogren's Syndrome: What is Sjogren's Syndrome?"; "FAQs About Sjogren's Syndrome": "Diagnosis": "Treatment": "Additional Resources." Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, Inc. http://www.sjogrens.org/syndrome. Accessed June 7, 2005.

Carsons, Harris, ed. The New Sjogren's Syndrome Handbook. London: Oxford University Press. 1998.

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Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Sjogren's Syndrome
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 15, 2005
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Previous Article:Sjogren's Syndrome; Prevention.
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