Karen McPhail, RN, MSN
Sjögren’s Syndrome A Common Autoimmune Disease
Over 4,000,000 Americans are currently suffering from Sjögren’s Syndrome. Sjögren’s is actually one of the most common systemic, autoimmune diseases with 9 out of 10 patients being females. As prevalent as this disease is most people do not know about it or the overall implications. It is important if you or your loved one experiences theses symptoms that they seek guidance, especially since those with Sjögren’s need more frequent screening as they have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.
The most commonly experienced symptoms of Sjögren’s are:
Dry mouth (which can also effect teeth and lead to decay)
Joint pain or generalized aches
Can also lead to the impairment of the lungs, liver, pancreas, blood vessels, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, and the central nervous system.
Systemic worsening can lead to loss of function
So, early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent worsening, improve quality of life, and prevent complications. It is important to consult a Rheumatologist to provide oversite and primary management along with specialists such as opthomologists and dentists. The Rheumatologist will assist with clearly diagnosing through a series of tests. The autoantibody SSA, one of the blood test markers for Sjögren’s, however some patients still have this disease and test negative for this marker which can make diagnosis a little more difficult. A set of classification criteria for Sjögren’s is being used for diagnosis in clinical trials and will perhaps be used in the clinical settings in the future to assist further.
Treatments may include a variety of over the counter medications and prescriptions for dry mouth, eyes and other noted areas. Sometimes immunosuppressive medications are required for systemic internal organ issues.
There is no cure for this disease, but with early diagnosis, careful management, and treatment the overall symptoms and quality of life can be improved.