Sjogren’s Syndrome is an interesting and unique autoimmune disorder that takes place when immune cells attack and kill the glands in the human body that produce tears and saliva. The primary victims are women, as more than 90% of those affected are female, and they are faced with this problem typically after the onset of menopause, and later in their lives into adulthood.
The disease affects 4 million people in the United States alone, and many more in Canada, making it the second most common autoimmune disease in the world, by some medical counts. The disorder can either develop in its own right, or be developed on top of other existing autoimmune disorders that a patient has already been dealing with for much of their adult lives.
As with most autoimmune disorders, there is no specific or set cause that is recognized by the medical community, making it very difficult to track down and cure over time. While the symptoms can easily be managed in Sjogren’s Syndrome, it is difficult to understand what causes the disease in the first place.
All that is known is that after menopause, there is a fundamental shift in a patient’s body that triggers the immune system to destroy the exocrine glands, and damage the ducts that produce tears and saliva. If the medical community can determine a cause of the disorder, it would make prognosis and treatment significantly easier and more successful in many patients.
As to be expected, the symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome involve dryness. Obviously, since the glands are no longer producing tears and saliva as efficiently, many patients experience significant dryness, not only in their eyes and around their mouths, but also on their skin, and in other areas of the body including organs, sexual organs, and even sweat glands during exercise.
Additionally, as Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder with the immune system attacking its own host, many patients feel fatigue and even overwhelming exhaustion when dealing with the complications from the disease. Signs and symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome are very similar to those of many other autoimmune and rheumatic disorders, including the most common, lupus.
Treatment generally involves treating these symptoms, with prescription drugs that can help produce saliva and tears, among other things, and other basic drugs and treatments that can improve a patient’s quality of life. While there is no known cure for Sjogren’s Syndrome, the treatments are such that a person can live very well with the disorder and overcome its symptoms quite efficiently.