Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not a dry eye in the house...

Well...sort of. Today, I would like to address one of the secondary conditions that causes issues for me in my daily life.  

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells attack the moisture-producing glands throughout their body. Today, it is estimated that as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.

Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.   

For some women, we don't like to talk about all the areas affected by Sjögren’s.  It affects my eyes.  I use artificial tears throughout the day and glycerin ointment at night to keep the moisture in.  It affects my mouth.  I chew sugar free gum as often as I can...unfortunately, I tend to swallow it without paying any attention.  Since it affects my mouth, it also affects my respiratory tract to some extent, my sinuses especially.  

About half of the time Sjögren’s syndrome occurs alone, and the other half it occurs in the presence of another autoimmune connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma. When Sjögren’s occurs alone, it is referred to as “Primary Sjögren’s.” When it occurs with another connective tissue disease, it is referred to as “Secondary Sjögren’s.” 

All instances of Sjögren’s syndrome are systemic, affecting the entire body. Symptoms may remain steady, worsen, or, uncommonly, go into remission. While some people experience mild discomfort, others suffer debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their functioning. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are important — they may prevent serious complications and greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.  

Since symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome mimic other conditions and diseases, Sjögren’s can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed. On average, it takes nearly seven years to receive a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. Patients need to remember to be pro-active in talking with their physicians and dentists about their symptoms and potential treatment options.

I was very lucky to have the rheumatologist be on top of this and get me to a great ophthalmologist who has kept my vision intact.  My dentist is very nice but...bah...nothing is going to help save my teeth from needing crowns...too many years of being bulimic combined with the chemo vomiting killing the enamel from my teeth.  Add that to the dry mouth...cavity central...weak teeth...so...I replace as I can...but I hate going.  

Going to the dentist triggers a Raynaud's attack...but that is a topic for another blog post.  

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