- Do you suffer from dry eyes and dry mouth and can’t get any answers from doctors?
- Do you find yourself using eye drops more than a few times a day?
- Have you had several unexplained cavities?
- Do you have joint pain that hasn’t resolved itself over time?
If you answered yes to a few of these questions, take a look at the chart below to see if you could be one of the 3 million Americans suffering from Sjögren’s Syndrome without knowing it.
July 23 is World Sjögren’s Day
To help celebrate this day and bring awareness to this disease, I wanted to talk about some of the hallmark symptoms. Many people are not aware they have this auto-immune disease until they have been living with it for many years.
Sjögren’s (“SHOW-grins”) is the second most prevalent autoimmune disorder, striking as many as 4 million Americans with an estimated 3 million cases currently undiagnosed. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for preventing complications with Sjögren’s. Unfortunately, reaching a diagnosis is often difficult and has been found to take an average of over 5 years from the onset of symptoms.
With the launch of the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation (SSF) 5-Year Breakthrough Goal, 50 in 5: “To shorten the time to diagnose Sjögren’s by 50% in 5 years” they are also hoping to change how Sjögren’s is understood. The Foundation knows how isolating being diagnosed with an invisible illness can be. For those suffering, you are not alone.
Steven Taylor, CEO of the SSF, says “We cannot sit on the sidelines and let those patients suffer any longer. That is why the SSF is taking action to ensure we do everything we can to increase awareness and help those patients yet to be diagnosed.”
Sjögren’s is a systemic disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own moisture producing glands. The hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, but fatigue, muscle and joint pain are also prominent symptoms. Serious manifestations can occur, such as life-threatening lung involvement, central nervous system complications and disorders of cognitive functioning. Nine out of ten patients are women with an average age of onset in the late 40’s. However, Sjögren’s can occur in all age groups, even in children.
Symptoms vary from person to person but may include:
- a dry, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes
- dry mouth
- difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing
- a sore or cracked tongue
- dry or burning throat
- dry or peeling lips
- a change in taste or smell
- increased dental decay
- joint pain
- vaginal and skin dryness
- digestive problems
- dry nose
Venus Williams, the tennis star who withdrew from the US open after announcing her Sjögren’s diagnosis, stated that she had suffered with issues from Sjögren’s for a while without being diagnosed. “Being diagnosed with Sjögren’s was a huge relief because I finally knew what was happening with my body,” said Williams, illustrating one example of what a correct diagnosis means for Sjögren’s sufferers.
With an aggressive timeline of actions and goals to accomplish ahead, the SSF believes this initiative will change the face of Sjögren’s. “By getting more patients diagnosed, physicians will become more knowledgeable about Sjögren’s and all patients will see a benefit from that,” states Taylor.
If you have any of the above symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor today and tell them you heard about Sjögren’s Syndrome. There is currently no cure for this disease, but there is treatment to improve symptoms and prevent complications.
If you would like to donate in honor of World Sjögren’s Day, please go to here. Each year the SSF funds cutting-edge research through its Research Grant Program. Your money will go toward research grants to help us find a cure for this disease.
For further information, go to www.sjogrens.org. All information on this site provided by sjogrens.org.
How many of us live with autoimmune disease(s)? They can be invisible illnesses, but for families it is ever-present in their lives. I’d love to hear from you and have a discussion on how many of you have these or similar symptoms.
I am one of the many Faces of Sjögren’s. My strength comes from the Lord.
For who I’m linking up with, click here.