Dry Eyes, Dry Mouth? Might be Sjogren’s Syndrome

Dry Eyes? Dry Mouth? Joint pain and/or fatigue?

Sjogren’s syndrome (SS) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the salivary and lacrimal glands, resulting in the classic presentation of dry eyes and dry mouth. Symptoms range from just dry eyes and mouth to joint pain and fatigue to arthritis and Lupus.

Approximately 1.5 million US individuals have this disease and 90% are women.

While this might seem odd or random for me to bring this disease up, it’s not. We have helped several patients over the last few years seek and confirm a diagnosis. To that end, physicians should be evaluating patients with blood tests such as anti-SSA, anti-SSB, rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibody.

The importance of monitoring saliva flow.

Salivary flow is something that we monitor. It can be very tricky as it is something that is relative. For instance, a radiation patient being treated for mouth cancer will likely experience a drastic change in saliva. They notice quite quickly that they have a dry mouth. But most times saliva flow changes are more subtle. Post menopausal woman, for instance, will experience a decrease in saliva flow.  uge coffee drinkers will dry their mouth without readily “noticing it”.

Why do we care about saliva flow? Saliva is your friend.  It naturally helps to rid bacteria that cause decay. pH can also play a part in saliva (look for an upcoming blog post dedicated to it). While patients with dry mouth have increased cavities risk, it can also cause oral fungal infection, the most common soft tissue problem that affects individuals with SS. Indications of the oral fungal infection is a burning tongue or dry corners of the lip.

Treating Sjogren’s Syndrome

We have medications that can increase salivary flow (Pilocarpine, Cevimeline, Bethanechol) and Xylitol to help with stimulation of saliva and decreasing cavities.

In Summary:

  • Dry eyes and mouth may suggest a systemic disease process that should be evaluated further.
  • Dry mouth can cause fungal infections and cavities
  • We have some medications and tools to help

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please let us know so we can evaluate your condition and hopefully prevent the fungal infection, or treat it!

Danine Fresch Gray, DDS

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