Dry, But Not Forgotten

Depositphotos_4461831_s“I have what?! How do you even spell that??”

That was my first reaction when I was told I had Sjögren’s syndrome. Few people have heard of this particular autoimmune disorder, but I suspect it’s because it goes undiagnosed in many.

After all, the primary symptoms are pretty innocuous. Dry eyes, dry mouth, dry everything. The textbook definition describes Sjögren’s as an autoimmune disorder in which your white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands. The Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation estimates that as many as 4 million Americans live with the disease. Nine out of ten, the foundation says, are women.

However, very few people talk about it, much less know what it is. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had really dry eyes. I simply chalked it up to the fact that I wear contacts and stare at a computer for eight hours straight. I’ve also had lots of trouble swallowing, something I attributed to my anatomy.

After my diagnosis, it all made sense. My desert-dry eyes weren’t a factor of my contacts or computer stare contest (although I’m sure that doesn’t help). My trouble swallowing wasn’t because my throat was too small, but because my body didn’t produce enough saliva to get the food down. And I’ve always had super-dry skin, but the jury’s still out on whether Sjögren’s is responsible for that or one of my other autoimmune disorders.

Here’s another scary statistic—half the time, Sjögren’s Syndrome occurs in conjunction with another autoimmune disorder. In my case, I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well as lupus.

And on the extreme end, Sjögren’s can also affect other organs, such as the kidneys, gastro system, lungs and the central nervous system. That’s why my rheumatologist checks my kidney functions every six months or so. So far, everything is ok.

Just like many other autoimmune disorders, Sjögren’s can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be treated. In fact, the drug parade that goes through my morning routine is a constant reminder of every single symptom. I was prescribed Restasis, high-powered eye drops to help with the dry eyes. I also take Salagen, a pill that treats dry mouth. My doctor also recommended taking fish oil supplements to help with overall dryness, a remedy I have yet to explore.

For the lupus, I take Plaquenil, an anti-inflammatory also known by its generic name, hydroxychloroquine. And finally, I take Synthroid (levothyroxine) to treat the Hashimoto’s.

It’s funny how you tend to overlook symptoms you’ve always learned to live with. And yet, struggling to contain the symptoms is a constant reminder that it will always be there.

 

About the Author
Giselle Greenwood is a former journalist. She currently lives in Houston, Texas with her two healthy and active boys, a dog named Rocco and her ever-supporting husband.

This post contains opinions of the author.  AutoimmuneMom.com is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes AutoimmuneMom.com available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Comments

  1. So true! I had the first same reaction. I realized only after my diagnosis that there was something more to the dryness that I had gotten used to and overlooked over the years!

  2. Charlene says:

    I had the same reaction, I have “what”, and I have been working in the medical field for twenty years. I also have Ulcerative Colitis and Fibromyalgia and a gastric ulcer. Raising a teenage daughter and trying to cope. I also take Plaquenil but for the Sjogren’s, Prednisone, Effexor and Lyrica. I have the medication for my dry mouth as well but I hate how it makes me feel like I am going to vomit, you know the salivation you get right before that happens? My Rheumatologist told me that the Plaquenil can sometimes cause blindness so I have to get my eye’s checked every six months. Honestly, I am so tired of taking these expensive medications and wished I could find a different way to feel better!!!
    Any ideas??

    • Lis Kennish says:

      Hi Charlene. I have been told I have Sjogren’s as well although mine seems quite mild so far..? I am hoping to treat it with natural therapies and have a good naturopath on board who believes she can help me. I am not taking any drugs and plan to follow Dr Joel Fuhrman’s diet to treat autoimmune diseases. Basically it’s a low protein, plant based diet that cuts out wheat and gluten. He has had great success with getting people off medication and treating diseases with diet. Google him and have a read. I firmly believe that food is the best medicine. Happy to talk more. Lis

      • Katie Cleary says:

        Hi ladies,

        I agree, diet can help a ton. Dr. Fuhrman’s diet is supposed to be great, as are many of the diets that we’ve written about on the website — it can be kind of a trial to go through the elimination elements but ultimately I think everyone has to customize their diet to their own issues and take a little from a bunch of “diet” philosophies. But the majority of your immune system is in your gut, so food as medicine is real and it has worked wonders for me over the last year – imho, going gluten free is many times not enough as I am not mostly grain free and mostly dairy free (should be 100% on both but it’s so hard!).

        Here’s the link to the diet section on the site so you can browse through the posts, and we are aiming to publish one about an anti-inflammation way of eating in December: http://www.autoimmunemom.com/diet

        Take care and healing thoughts,
        Katie

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