Sjogren’s disease is more commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 40 and females, with a rate of 9 females to 1 male (NIH). This autoimmune disease is caused by the immune system accidentally attacking the lacrimal (tear glands) and salivary glands (saliva and nasal mucous). Sjogren’s may be linked to a variation of genes and expsures to bacterial and viruses.
Sjogren’s Syndrome Autoimmune Disease
The immune system is made up of innumerable organs, cells, and protein. When the immune system detects a foreign pathogen in the body, the immune cells are activated and antigens are released to neutralize them.
- Granulocytes immune cells attack pathogens
- Macrophages immune cells are messengers, as they alert the rest of the immune system that a pathogen is present.
- Dendritic immune cells eat the pathogens, while filtering the body fluids to evacuate the pathogens from the body. Once the Dendritic cell eats the pathogen, it will travel directly to the closest lymph node to transmit the news about the pathogen. At this point, antigens are released and the receptor, helper T cell begins to produce proteins, which in turn activate the Killer T and B cells.
In the case of this autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks the salivary and lacrimal glands, which decrease the production of saliva, tears, and nasal mucous.
Sjogren’s Syndrome Symptoms
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Xerophthalmia (dry eyes)
- Edematous salivary glands (affects the parotid gland most often, which is located in front of the ears)
- Dry cough
- Extremely dry skin
- Potential skin rashes
- Joint stiffness, edema, and pain (arthritic type symptoms)
- Vaginal dryness
- Gritty or sandy sensation in the eyes
- Oral cavity feels like it is full of cotton
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Dysphasia (difficulty speaking)
- Dental caries
Sjogren’s Lung Disease Symptoms
Sjogren’s interstitial lung disease is more common than other pulmonary manifestations, but cystic lung disease, amyloidosis, and pulmonary hypertension are other conditions that are linked to Sjogren’s.
- Chronic bronchitis
- Persistent dry cough
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Mucosal dryness (xerotrachea)
The immune system will mistakenly attack the respiratory epithelium or mucosa (lining that is responsible for moistening the airways and allows the lungs to expand). Sjogren’s can also lead to interstitial lung disease, which is classified by the interstitium (lacy network of tissue that is found throughout the lungs) becoming thickened, which is most likely do to inflammation, scarring, and edema.
There have not been a lot of studies on Sjogren’s interstitial lung diseases, but with proper and extensive treatment the victim can live more comfortably.
- Dry mouth care
- Artificial tear ophthalmic drops
- NSAIDs (Motrin) for pain
- Over the counter pain medications (Tylenol)
- Cholinergic agonists (boost saliva production) Salagen and Evoxac
- Cyclosporine ophthalmic drops (treats lacrimal gland inflammation) Restasis
- Anti-rheumatic medication (decrease salivary gland inflammation and slows the immune response) Plaquenil
- Immunosuppressive drugs (corticosteroids) prednisone
- Antimetabolites (suppresses the immune system) Methotrexate Sodium
Home Remedies Sjorgren’s Syndrome
- Adequate rest
- Routine exercise
- Physical therapy
- Utilize humidifiers to increase humidity
- Wear sunglasses or goggles, when outside to prevent eyes from becoming dryer
- Increase fluid intake
- Oral hygiene
- Lemon juice and hard candies to boost saliva production
- Artificial saliva (ACT or Biotene)
- Lubricating nasal sprays
- Vaginal lubricants
Sjogren’s Syndrome Life Expectancy
For individuals that suffer from the primary features of Sjogren syndrome such as decreased production of saliva and tears, the life expectancy will not be altered.
Some victims of Sjogren’s may develop organ (lungs, kidney) or tissue (skin) damage, rheumatic conditions, and lymphoma, due to Sjogren’s, but still have a normal life expectancy. Secondary Sjogren’s victims may potentially have a shorter lifespan due to their primary autoimmune disorders.
- Primary Sjogren’s is when the disorder appears first on its own
- Secondary Sjogren’s is when the individual was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus. Sjogren will later be diagnosed, as a secondary disease.
Diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome
- CRP C-reactive protein serum testing
- Saliogram (x-ray to determine condition of the salivary glands)
- FANA Fluorescent antinuclear antibody serum testing
- ESR erythrocyte sedimentation rate serum testing
- Schirmer ophthalmology tear test
- Salivary gland biopsy (biopsy of the parotid gland located in the lower lip)