Today is the 3rd annual World Sjogren's Day, the birthday of Dr. Henrik Sjogren, for whom Sjogren's Syndrome is named. Dr Sjogren, a Swedish doctor, first described the conglomeration of symptoms in 1933. The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation (SSF) currently has a goal to cut in half the average time it takes for a person with Sjogren's to get a correct diagnosis. Currently it takes about 7 years from the time symptoms appear until a diagnosis is made. That is a long time to feel sick and not know why. Here are some facts about Sjogren's Syndrome. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, bring it up with your (or their) doctor.
Sjogren's Syndrome is an autoimmune syndrome, which affects the moisture producing glands in the body. Classic symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, but that is only the tip of the (dry) iceberg. Almost any system in the body can be affected, including dry skin, dry vagina, digestive issues and brain fog. Joint or muscle pain are often present. Symptoms may mimic menopause, drug side effects, or other diseases including Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis. Not everyone has noticeable dry eyes or mouth, and symptoms vary in each individual, making diagnosis difficult.
Nine out of ten people with Sjogren's are women. Most often diagnosed in the late 40's, many of us recall symptoms going back to our teens or earlier. Sjogren's is believed to be the second most common autoimmune disorder, affecting as many as 4 million Americans.
One reason Sjogren's Syndrome is less well known than many diseases that affect far fewer people is that people don't die of Sjogren's. There is no cure for Sjogren's, but there are medications that make living with it easier. There are medications that help increase tear and saliva production, control yeast infections of the vagina or mouth, and decrease pain. Some people with Sjogren's take steroids or immunosuppressant drugs to decrease the systemic symptoms.
Spread the word. The sooner people get a diagnosis, the sooner they can get treatment.