Diagnosis and Treatment
It can be tricky to diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome because the signs and symptoms vary from person to person and can be similar to those caused by other diseases. Your doctor may carry out blood tests to check for antibodies (common in Sjogren’s syndrome) as well as inflammation. An inner lip biopsy may be done to check for clusters of inflammatory cells, which can indicate the presence of the disease.
Although there is no cure, a lot can be done to manage the symptoms. Some of these include non-prescription medications, such as artificial tears. There are also eye gels you can use. The feeling of a persistently dry mouth, in turn, can be assuaged through the use of certain mouthwashes, gels and toothpaste. Sucking on sugar-free sweets, eating more fibrous foods and frequent sips of water can stimulate saliva flow. For dry eyes, people find using a humidifier or vapouriser at night helpful. These can also help with your dry mouth or nose. For a dry nose, try a nasal saline or gel. If dry skin is a problem, use warm water — not hot — when you shower, and apply moisturiser frequently.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may suggest medications that:
To relieve dry eyes, you may consider undergoing a minor surgical procedure to seal the tear ducts that drain tears from your eyes (punctal occlusion). Collagen or silicone plugs are inserted into the ducts for a temporary closure. Collagen plugs eventually dissolve, but silicone plugs stay in place until they fall out or are removed. Alternatively, your doctor may use a laser to permanently seal your tear ducts.
Everyone’s experience of the disease is different. Learning that you have a lifelong disease is worrying. However, you can take heart in the knowledge that most people with Sjogren’s syndrome are able to stay healthy and lead normal lives.