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A healthy immune system’s function is to attack foreign invaders. Sometimes, the body’s immune system can start attacking healthy cells mistakenly. The term used to describe this occurrence is an autoimmune disease. Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease of the exocrine glands and is often associated with lymphocytic infiltration of the surrounding glands.

This article will give you more information on the Sjögren’s syndrome treatment Brisbane residents can access through us. If needed, you can schedule a consultation by clicking here to learn more about the possible solutions.

What is Sjogren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome is one of the more common autoimmune rheumatic conditions affecting the Australian population. Sjögren’s syndrome primarily affects the exocrine glands, mainly the salivary (produce saliva) and lacrimal glands (produce tears). This usually occurs due to a dysfunction of the immune system which causes the white blood cells in the body to attack healthy cells.

Lymphocytic infiltration (white blood cells enter the exocrine glands) of the affected glands can lead to abnormal dryness of the eyes and mouth. This dryness can occur alone (primary Sjögren’s syndrome), or in the presence of another autoimmune condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.  Primary Sjögren’s syndrome can be more aggressive and result in more abnormal dryness than the latter.

What are the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome can affect many different parts of the body. The most common symptoms and clinical features of Sjögren’s syndrome can be divided into those related to the exocrine system, and those that affect other organs.

sjogren syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome causes both glandular and multiple organ symptoms, with flare-ups presenting in a variety of ways.

The most common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome include, but are not excluded to:

  • Dry mouth - Can be chronic and may affect the cavities. Abnormal dry mouth can lead to difficulty talking or swallowing.
  • Dry eyes - Can feel like a painful burning sensation or as if there is a foreign body in your eye. Dry eyes caused by Sjörgen’s syndrome can also lead to increased sensitivity to light.
  • Enlarged glands - Bilateral enlargement of the pituitary glands are common.
  • Dry skin - Can often result in itchiness.
  • Dryness of the upper respiratory tract - A dry nose or trachea can occur leading to a chronic cough.
  • In females, vaginal dryness - Can lead to an increased risk of UTIs and a painful burning sensation when urinating.

Extraglandular symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon - reduced blood flow to the fingers
  • Organs - during serious inflammation, a patient’s lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, or other tissues can be affected.

What causes Sjogren’s syndrome?

The causes of Sjögren’s syndrome are still widely unknown. Studies revolving around this condition have confirmed that it is an autoimmune condition resulting from our body’s immune system.

Due to the nature of the condition, research has led us to believe that there are multiple environmental and genetic factors that can predispose individuals to Sjögren’s syndrome.

Environmental factors - viral infections, and smoking have been shown to affect our immune system. Studies show that Sjögren’s syndrome was more commonly found amongst smokers.

Genetic factors - Genome-wide studies have shown a strong association between Sjögren’s syndrome and various genes.

How is Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosed?

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic, slowly progressing disease whose clinical manifestations vary greatly from organ-specific presentations to generalised symptoms. Sjögren’s syndrome is diagnosed by evaluating a patient’s symptoms, especially if they present with dry eyes and a dry mouth. Your rheumatologist must rule out other causative conditions before coming to a diagnosis. They will carry out a physical examination and perform further testing to confirm their suspicions.

One test your rheumatologist can do is called a Schirmer’s Test. This tool is used to aid the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. A calibrated strip of paper is placed within your lower eyelid. You will then be asked to close your eyes for 5 minutes. Once the time is up, the paper will be assessed for wetness.

Additionally, a biopsy of your salivary glands can be taken from the inner lip to confirm the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome.

sjogren syndrome treatment

Multiple tests are performed on the biopsy of salivary glands to confirm Sjogren’s syndrome.

Can Sjogren's syndrome be cured?

Like many other autoimmune conditions, Sjögren’s syndrome cannot be cured. However, there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage symptoms and improve a patient’s quality of life.

What is the best treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome?

Treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome involves relieving the symptoms associated with the condition. The most common medications prescribed are eye drops and lozenges that help facilitate the production of saliva or tears. If an individual is experiencing joint pain, they can use over the counter anti-inflammatory medications if recommended by their specialist.

Your rheumatologist can also recommend some lifestyle changes such as incorporating a healthier diet and balancing it out with sufficient activity to tackle fatigue. There is currently no single medicine that can completely treat all symptoms associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.

How can our autoimmune specialist in Brisbane help?

We, at Rheumatology.com.au, are staffed with a host of rheumatologists that specialise in various rheumatic diseases. We are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to help provide you with a complete management plan. We pride ourselves on looking after a patient’s health as a whole, instead of only treating the initial presentations.

Your rheumatologist will give you advice, prescribe medications, and follow up regularly with you to check your pain has subsided and your symptoms have alleviated. If you experience dryness of the eyes and mouth, contact us at your soonest convenience to discuss your treatment options and allow us to get you back to your normal daily life.

Sjögren’s Syndrome
FAQs

Sjögren’s syndrome is a complicated disease. Therefore, we have formulated a set of commonly
asked questions and answers for you to attend to if you have any further worries.

The damage caused by Sjögren’s syndrome to the exocrine glands cannot be reversed, but the damage can be slowed down and the symptoms can be treated

Although Sjögren’s syndrome is a progressive autoimmune condition, it is not life-threatening. Individuals can carry on with their normal lives without experiencing any serious complications.

When left untreated, Sjögren’s syndrome can lead to a few serious complications such as lymphoma and multiple myeloma, as well as increase your risk of developing oral yeast infections.

Your rheumatologist can help you figure out an anti-inflammatory diet that gives you adequate nutrition, reduces fatigue, and reduces the rate of flare-ups. You can also use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, or follow your doctor’s advice for symptom management.

Treatments for Sjögren’s syndrome vary from patient to patient. Check out the frequently asked questions section on our website for up to date information on consultation fees and if you are covered by Medicare.

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