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Sjögren’s Syndrome and RA

When you are given the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, you join a group of people who have one of eighty plus autoimmune diseases. You might also have a second autoimmune disease yourself. Sjögren’s syndrome is an example. It can stand alone as a primary autoimmune disorder or can be a secondary disorder to RA, lupus or scleroderma.

The immune system attacks the exocrine glands which include lacrimal (eye) glands, the salivary glands, the mammary glands, the sweat glands and the digestive glands. Tears. Saliva. Milk. Sweat. Digestive juices.

The most common symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth. Dry eyes. Dry mouth. Yet these symptoms can wreak havoc with the body when not treated. Dry eyes need to be moisturized with eye drops without preservatives. I use Refresh Optive eye drops packaged in individual ampules. I have a very dry mouth but it has another cause. I had stage three thyroid cancer. The treatment included radiation. The radiation, while seeking out thyroid cells, also attacked the salivary glands.

 I eat more citrus. It is wet and stimulates moisture. I add more limes and lemons to my meals. Tangelos. Orange juice in the morning.  I also have Bioténe dry mouth moisturizing spray in my bedside table for night-time use. I sometimes suck on cough drops to keep my out from drying out.

I have trouble swallowing. Sometimes more than others. I always have a glass of water with my meals to help push reluctant food down my throat.

Dry eyes can eventually cause eye damage. Dry mouth can cause dental complications. We are lucky the remedies are simple.  Keeping hydrated is important.

Fatigue, difficulty swallowing, difficulty chewing, swollen salivary glands, cough, reflux, dry nose, vaginal dryness, swollen lymph glands, joint and muscle pain, loss of taste, dry skin. These things can happen to you when you have Sjögren’s, a slowly progressive disease. Henry Sjögren , ophthalmologist, Swedish, named the syndrome in1933.

For twenty percent of those with Sjögren’s syndrome, life is more difficult. For them there is kidney, lung, GI, neuro, and blood vessel complications. There is also an increased chance of lymphoma for all.

Treatment frequently includes Hydroxychloquine, corticosteroids, and, if needed, methotrexate.

You might check out Sjögren’s Foundation at sjogrens.org

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Woman, friend, mother, RN, photographer, gardener, writer, researcher, observer, swimmer. Pretty much the same as everyone else with my own little twist to things. RA, and three cancers and counting. Life is good despite the obstacles. It's worth the ride just to see the infinite variations of the human spirit.

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