As many as 430,000 Canadians suffer from Sjogren’s Syndrome – a serious auto-immune disorder that attacks and causes damage to the mucous-secreting, tear and salivary glands, leading to swelling and inflammation. In many cases, Sjogren’s Syndrome is often accompanied with other autoimmune disorders like Lupus and and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Autoimmune disorders, in general, tend to affect more men than women. When it comes to Sjogren’s Syndrome, as many as 9 out of 10 women are affected by it. Primary Sjogren’s Syndrome can also affect children and the elderly. On average, it takes anywhere from 3 to 6 years for a diagnosis. In 2011, tennis superstar Venus Williams shone a light on Sjogren’s Syndrome when she revealed she’d been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, which caused her to withdraw from the US Open and other tennis matches.
The cause of Sjogren’s Syndrome and its’ triggers are unknown, though there have been some studies have suggested there may be a genetic predisposition to the disorder. Viruses such as HIV, mumps, mono and Epstein Barr have also been linked to Sjogren’s.
Along with affecting the mucous-secreting, tear and salivary glands, Sjogren’s has many other symptoms including severe muscle and joint pain, extreme fatigue, lack of energy, dry or gritty eyes, dry mouth (resulting in needing to drink water or chew on gum more frequently than normal), altered sense of smell and/or taste, numbness, mouth sores, swelling of the hands, memory loss, the inability to concentrate, dry nose, sinusitis, dry skin, skin rashes, difficulty swallowing, GERD, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
If Sjogren’s Syndrome is suspected, Dr. Ali Ghahary will often send patients for a series of tests – not only to confirm the presence of Sjogren’s, but to also rule out any other potential diseases that have similar symptoms; including eye tests with opthalmologists, salivary gland tests, as well as blood tests to check for anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and immunoglobulins (IGs).
While there is no cure for Sjogren’s Syndrome, it can be treated with medications for relief of symptoms associated with the disease. For example, drops can be used to help treat dry eye, and NSAIDs such as Advil can be used to treat pain and inflammation. It is important to remember that not all individuals diagnosed with Sjogren’s will experience the same symptoms; therefore not everyone will require the same medications.
For more information on Sjogren’s Syndrome, including webinars and events, visit the Sjogren’s Society of Canada at www.sjogrenscanada.org. If you have questions about Sjogren’s Syndrome or are concerned with any symptoms you may be experiencing, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to see walk-in patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.