Conquering Sjogren’s: Follow us on our journey to change the face of Sjogren’s

Sjogren's Vs. Sicca Syndrome

Posted on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

Sicca is a word derived from the Latin siccus, meaning “dry.” Dryness of the exocrine glands, particularly the eyes and mouth, is referred to as “sicca syndrome” or “sicca complex” when there is no evidence of autoimmune disease present.  While sicca symptoms occur in the vast majority of Sjögren’s patients, not everyone with these symptoms has Sjögren’s. Because of this, it is important to establish an autoimmune cause for the dryness.  Sometimes other causes may be found, such as radiation therapy to the head, certain medications, or Hepatitis C or HIV infections. If no cause is found, the patient should be followed carefully for possible Sjögren’s because it sometimes takes years for the diagnosis to become clear. 

tms cover 2014 April

Dryness from Sjögren’s may affect any organ in the body that secretes moisture. In addition to changing the quantity and quality of saliva and tears, dryness may manifest in the airways, nasal passages, sinuses, throat, skin, and in women, the vagina. Some Sjögren’s patients initially present with recurrent sinus infections, severe vaginal dryness, chronic dry cough, and so on. All types of specialists, not just eye doctors and dentists, need to keep Sjögren’s in mind as a diagnostic possibility, especially when dryness is severe, persistent, or accompanied by systemic symptoms such as fatigue and widespread muscle and joint pain. Dryness can be quite serious, causing dental disease, eye pain and even visual impairment.  However, these issues should not detract from the often missed point that Sjögren’s is much more than sicca syndrome.  Sjögren’s is a serious systemic autoimmune disease that can affect almost any organ in the body. 

-Sarah Schafer, MD

This information was first printed in the April issue of The Moisture Seeker, SSF's patient newsletter for members. 

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Topics: Diagnosing Sjogren's, Dry Nose, Sinuses, Sicca, Dry Mouth, Dry Eyes, Symptoms, Sjogren's, Fatigue, Vaginal Dryness, Chronic Cough

Top 10 Tips for Combating Gastroesophageal Reflux

Posted on Tue, Jun 17, 2014

describe the imageWhile the exact reasons are unknown, many patients with Sjögren’s suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can cause a wide variety of symptoms that can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms may include persistent heartburn and/or regurgitation of acid, stomach pain, hoarseness or voice change, throat pain, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, sensation of having a lump in the throat, frequent throat clearing and chronic cough (especially at night time or upon awakening).

Tips for combating gastroesophageal reflux in the throat:

1. Avoid lying flat during sleep. Elevate the head of your bed using blocks or by placing a styrofoam wedge under the mattress. Do not rely on pillows as these may only raise the head but not the esophagus.

2. Don’t gorge yourself at mealtime. Eat smaller more frequent meals and one large meal.

3. Avoid bedtime snacks and eat meals at least three-four hours before lying down.

4. Lose any excess weight.

5. Avoid spicy, acidic or fatty foods including citrus fruits or juices, tomato-based products, peppermint, chocolate, and alcohol.

6. Limit your intake of caffeine including coffee, tea and colas.

7. Stop smoking.

8. Don’t exercise within one-two hours after eating.

9. Promote saliva flow by chewing gum, sucking on lozenges or taking prescription medications
such as pilocarpine (Salagen®) and cevimeline (Evoxac®). This can help neutralize stomach acid and reduce symptoms. Check the SSF's Product Directory (free of charge to all SSF members) to see the products available.

10. Consult your doctor if you have heartburn or take antacids more than three times per week. A variety of OTC and prescription medications can help but should only be taken with medical supervision.

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The SSF thanks Soo Kim Abboud, MD for authoring this Reflux and Your Throat Patient Education Sheet. Dr. Abboud is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Topics: Dry Mouth, Symptoms, Sjogren's, Treatment, Top 5 Tips, Saliva, Gastroesophageal Reflux, Chronic Cough, Heartburn

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