The main symptoms of Sjögren’s are dry mouth and dry eyes.
The dry mouth causes a burning sensation in the mouth or throat. The voice may be hoarse or weak. The body begins to ingest more liquids. Food becomes difficult to chew and swallow because the dryness causes it to stick to the tissues. Your sense of taste may be altered and your salivary glands may become enlarged and painful. Other manifestations you may experience include dry cracked tongue with atrophy of the papillae, bleeding gums, cracks at the corners of the mouth, badly fitting dentures as well as infections causing a sensitive mucosa. Rampant dental caries may also be apparent in an untreated dry mouth.
Dry eyes can be a continuous source of irritation and discomfort. Each time we blink, new tears bathe the surface of the eye. Tears that normally soothe and protect your eyes are diminished in Sjogren’s Syndrome resulting in a burning, stinging or itching sensation. Often eyelids will stick together particularly in the morning. Some patients may not be able to tolerate strong sunlight.
Dry eyes are not a trivial complaint as the symptoms may substantially reduce the sufferer’s quality of life. Normal sight relies on a moist ocular surface.
Sjögren’s can also cause dryness of the skin, nose and vagina and affect the kidney, gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas and the central nervous system too. Many patients also suffer from anemia and are easily fatigued. Joint pain can also impair their quality of life; others may only experience mild symptoms.
Why do you need saliva?
Saliva is more than just water. Most of your saliva is produced by three major pairs of salivary glands located in and around your mouth – the parotid gland, the sublingual gland and the submandibular gland. Saliva contains many important ingredients such as proteins, enzymes and minerals that protect your teeth, gums and mouth.
Everyone needs adequate amounts to:
- Control the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi which lead to infections and tooth decay
- Clean the mouth of food particles
- Continually rinse the teeth with minerals to keep them strong and prevent cavities
- Lubricate the mouth and throat to make speaking, chewing and swallowing easier
- Dissolve foods and let you taste them better
- Provide enzymes that help you digest your food
Why do you need tears?
Tears are a complex solution composed of many important ingredients such as water, proteins and enzymes. Most of your tears are produced by major tear glands located in the inside upper part of your eyelids.
They protect your eyes and the surrounding soft tissues.
Everyone needs adequate amounts of tears to:
- Prevent and control the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi which lead to infections.
- Lubricate and protect the surface of the eye.
- Rinse and clean the eye of foreign objects.