Learn the Latest About Sjogren's Syndrome
Milano, Medical Writer
"All of a sudden, my eyes
were very red and dry, and didn't tear normally. I always looked
like I didn't sleep enough," recalls Amye Leong, president
of Healthy Motivation, a consulting firm in Palo Alto, California.
Over-the-counter products didn't help. Alert to any new symptoms
because of years of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis,
Leong sought medical attention.
Her ophthalmologist diagnosed
Leong with Sjogren's syndrome in 1988.
Two to 4 million Americans (90%
of them women) have this little-known autoimmune disorder, which
affects the body's moisture-producing glands. Its classic symptoms
are dry eyes and mouth. The disease can also cause dry
skin, as well as dryness of the nose, vagina, kidneys, lungs,
liver, and blood vessels. For many Sjogren's patients, debilitating
fatigue or joint pain is the worst effect.
You can have primary or secondary
Sjogren's. If you have primary Sjogren's, that's the only autoimmune
disease you have. If you have secondary Sjogren's, you have another
connective tissue disorder, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Amye Leong has had rheumatoid arthritis for over 20 years. Alexis
Stegemann, executive director of the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation
(SSF), says primary and secondary sufferers are split roughly
"Sjogren's is a very alienating
experience," observes Stegemann. "By and large, patients
look well. Even their families may not understand the problems
Leong was fortunate to get her
answer so quickly: Diagnosis is a major problem. Symptoms can
mimic multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis, and other conditions.
A dentist is often the first to suspect its presence, because
healthy teeth often begin to break down as a result of reduced
An ophthalmologist may
treat a patient for dry eyes, but Sjogren's may well remain undetected
unless the patient mentions aching joints, dry mouth, or other
problems. A survey conducted by the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation
found that one-quarter its members had spent more than 5 years
seeking correct diagnosis of their symptoms.
may treat a patient for dry eyes, but Sjogren's may well remain
undetected unless the patient mentions aching joints, dry mouth,
or other problems.