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Sjogren's Syndrome; Key Q&A.

Who gets Sjogren's syndrome-am I at risk?

Women are nine times more likely to develop Sjogren's syndrome than men, and the disorder occurs sometimes in connection with another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma. Women are at higher risk after menopause for developing Sjogren's. Other than those, there are no clear risk factors for predicting who will get Sjogren's.

How can I prevent the disease?

Sadly, researchers have not found any special dietary guidelines or lifestyle modifications that can stave off the onset of Sjogren's. The best that can be done is to diagnose the disease as early as possible and start aggressive treatment to try to prevent worsening of symptoms.

Why is Sjogren's called an autoimmune disease?

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 that turn against the part of the body they should protect-are produced. With Sjogren's, immune-system cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva.

What are the symptoms of Sjogren's?

The hallmark symptoms of Sjogren's are dry eyes and dry mouth. The disorder may also include skin, nose and vaginal dryness, as well as swollen salivary glands, joint pain and fatigue.

I have dry mouth and dry eyes. Do I really need to see a health care professional, or can I just use artificial tears and sip water?

Early diagnosis and a systematic treatment plan are essential for slowing the disease's progress. Sjogren's syndrome can affect other parts of the body, such as blood vessels, the nervous system, muscles, skin and other organs. This can lead to muscle weakness, confusion and memory problems, dry skin, and feelings of numbness and tingling. Sjogren's syndrome can also affect the liver and pancreas. When it does, there is a greater chance for developing cancer of the lymph tissue. Although this is unusual, it is another reason why medical exams and continued follow-up are critical.

How is Sjogren's syndrome diagnosed?

Once Sjogren's is suspected, blood tests for autoantibodies, tests to determine the degree of dry eye and mouth and sometimes lip biopsies can point to the presence of Sjogren's.

Is it safe to get pregnant if I have Sjogren's?

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.

What treatments are available for Sjogren's?

Artificial tears (such as Cellufresh, Tears Naturale Free or Bion Hypotears PF) and saliva substitutes (such as Glandosane, Moi-Stir, Orex and Salivart) combat dry mouth and eyes. Cyclosporine A (Restasis) eye drops are immunosuppressive and are also used to increase tear production. Unlike artificial tears, these are available only by prescription. Over-the-counter lubricating products are also available to address vaginal, skin and nasal dryness. Pilocarpine tablets may be prescribed to increase salivary flow. If symptoms include joint pain, muscle ache, fever and fatigue, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen may be prescribed or recommended. In a case of internal organ involvement, your health care professional may recommend more aggressive treatments, such as corticosteroids or immunomodulating agents.

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; Questions to Ask.
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