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Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease. Instead of the white blood cells helping to fight off disease, the defenders behave like an enemy within that causes damage to the cells of the salivary and tear glands. Although the condition can be severe, severity varies from one individual to another. The most extreme forms of Sjogren's syndrome adversely affect quality of life in many ways, but more minor forms are irritating more than debilitating. The condition affects an estimated four million people in the USA, with women making up 90%.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes are one of the most noticeable symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome. The tear glands become inflamed and damaged, leading to the production of fewer tears. In this situation, the eyes start to sting or itch, often described as similar to having sand in the eyes. Often, they also become reddish, and the eyelids swell. Some individuals also experience blurred vision and heightened light sensitivity.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Dry mouth

A dry mouth is another common symptom of this condition, caused by similar factors as dry eyes. As well as inflaming the tear glands to reduce the supply of tears, the disease also inflames the saliva glands and eventually destroys them, leading to dry mouth and lips. The dry-mouth feeling may differ from the sensation one feels after drinking too little water on a hot day. The individual may find their tongue sticks to the roof of their mouth or is unusually red. Some people notice hoarseness and changes in how foods taste. There are a number of medical causes for dry mouth, however, including diabetes.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Issues with dental health

People with Sjogren's syndrome often have major dental health issues. As well as aiding in the digestion of food, antimicrobial agents in saliva help protect the teeth against decay. A lack of sufficient saliva contributes to dental problems. In particular, the teeth of people with this illness tend to decay more quickly than those of healthy people and are more prone to receding gums, oral thrush, and mouth ulcers. Also, oral thrush infections are likely to happen. A dentist is often involved in the diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Pains in joints and muscles

Joint and muscle pain felt by people with Sjogren's syndrome is difficult to distinguish from that experienced by people with rheumatoid arthritis, making diagnosis difficult. Studies show it can take as long as three years before the doctors confidently determine an individual has Sjogren's syndrome as opposed to a more common health problem such as arthritis. Sometimes, the syndrome occurs in conjunction with a second autoimmune disease, further complicating diagnosis.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Swollen glands

Gland inflammation is one of the most characteristic elements of Sjogren's syndrome and leads to swelling in several parts of the body. In particular, doctors check for swollen glands around the neck, but they also develop on the face, armpits, and groin. Dentists will notice this swelling in the parotid glands on either side of the mouth and in front of the ears.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Running a fever

The progress of the disease may cause the kidneys, heart, liver, and other essential organs to become inflamed, which can lead to low-grade fevers and night sweats. This is another symptom that could indicate many different conditions and, therefore, signifies to doctors that a patient is unwell but does not necessarily point to Sjogren's syndrome.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Fatigue

Sjogren's syndrome can leave people feeling physically fatigued and unable to carry out regular, day-to-day activities. This symptom often lasts a long time, but can also come and go. Whether related to this physical fatigue or separate, some people also report difficulty concentrating.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Irritating dry cough

Another common symptom of Sjogren's syndrome is a dry cough that may worsen when there is excess dust or irritants in the air, or during cold weather. Even being in an air-conditioned room may provoke a cough.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Breathing difficulties

As people get older, they may naturally experience shortness of breath, but this is yet another symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome. Again, breathing difficulties are symptomatic of many other conditions and may delay the diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome while the doctor rules out other possible causes.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Unplanned weight loss

Though we often think more of sudden weight gain, unexpected or unexplained weight loss is also a signal of poor health. Sjogren's syndrome, like many conditions, can cause sudden weight loss, in part because the body is always working so hard to fend off illnesses a healthy immune system would not have trouble fighting. Unexplained weight loss should indicate a need for medical attention.

15 Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome to Watch Out For

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Skin rashes

Sometimes, patients suffering from Sjogren's syndrome may experience skin problems, which can be both uncomfortable and aesthetically concerning. These skin rashes are often characterized by redness, dryness, and patchy areas on the skin. The dry, itchy patches can be a constant source of irritation, causing patients to scratch and worsen the condition. While not life-threatening, these skin problems can significantly impact one's quality of life, affecting self-esteem and overall well-being. Addressing skin rashes often involves topical treatments to relieve itching and inflammation, allowing patients to feel more comfortable in their skin.

Dermatology, asian young woman, girl allergy, allergic reaction from atopic, insect bites on her arm, hand in scratching itchy, itch red spot or rash of skin. Healthcare, treatment of beauty.

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Swallowing difficulties

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a challenging symptom associated with Sjogren's syndrome. It can range from mild discomfort to a severe hindrance when having a meal. Individuals with dysphagia may struggle to eat and drink, which can lead to inadequate nutrition and unintended weight loss. Recognizing this symptom early is crucial to ensure patients receive appropriate care and therapy. Speech therapists and swallowing specialists help patients to develop strategies for safer and more comfortable eating, helping them maintain their nutritional health.

Senior asian woman with acid reflux problem, sore throat. While eating patty, food stuck in the throat, burning sensation in the esophagus, irritation, coughing, suffocation and difficulty swallowing.

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Numbness or tingling

Sjorgen's syndrome can cause Neuropathy, a condition affecting the nerves, causing numbness and tingling sensations primarily in hands and feet. This neuropathic discomfort can disrupt daily activities and cause considerable distress. Patients might experience difficulty with tasks that require fine motor skills. It's essential to address these symptoms promptly through consultation with a healthcare provider who can recommend treatment options and therapies to alleviate the numbness and tingling, thereby improving the patient's quality of life.

Woman using hand to hold other her palm with feeling pain, hurt and tingling. Concept of Guillain barre syndrome and numb hands disease.

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Dry Skin and pruritus

Sjogren's syndrome's impact does not just affect the mucous membranes; it can also affect the skin. Dry skin is a common manifestation of this autoimmune disorder, often leading to pruritus or itching. The itching can range from mild to severe, causing discomfort and irritation for those affected. Patients may find themselves frequently itching or experiencing skin irritation, which can be distressing and disruptive to daily life. To address this symptom, dermatologists may recommend emollients and medicated creams to hydrate the skin and relieve itching, offering patients some much-needed relief.

 A woman examines dry skin on her face. Peeling, coarsening, discomfort, skin sensitivity. Patient at the appointment of a dermatologist or cosmetologist, selection of cream for dryness

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Ear and hearing problems

Hearing issues can be an unexpected and challenging aspect of Sjogren's syndrome. Patients may experience recurrent ear infections, which can be painful and disruptive. Additionally, tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is another common problem. In more severe cases, hearing loss may occur, impacting one's ability to communicate effectively. These auditory issues can have a profound impact on daily life, making it essential to address them promptly. Ear specialists and audiologists can assess and manage hearing problems, offering solutions such as hearing aids or treatments for ear infections to improve the patient's overall quality of life.

Earache, injury and woman with a hearing problem from noice, loud music and deaf. Stress, pain and business employee with tinnitus, pressure from sound and infection in the ear in the workplace

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.