Q: What does an autoimmune disease that primarily affects tear glands and salivary glands have in common with a James Clavell novel?
A: Nothing, really—other than the fact that the only way I can remember how to pronounce Sjögren’s syndrome is to think about Shōgun, the Clavell novel about an invincible Japanese warlord that was turned into a TV movie in 1980.Otherwise, I end up trying to add in an American “J” sound, and that’s just wrong.
I first learned about Sjögren’s as a co-morbidity (meaning a second, or third, or fourth—and so on—coexisting disease) of lupus.
I was surprised to learn that dry, irritated eyes and trouble swallowing weren’t symptoms of lupus, but of another disease entirely.
Recently, I was able to spend time with one of my out-of-state sisters-in-law, and she revealed that she’d been diagnosed with primary Sjögren’s (vs. Sjögren’s that’s a co-morbidity). I decided it was time to learn more about it.
Here are some of the things I discovered:
Sjögren’s is an inflammatory autoimmune disease, meaning it’s one of those diseases where your immune system wacks out and attacks healthy cells as if they were the enemy.
The numbers regarding how many people have it aren’t very enlightening: somewhere between 400,000 and 3.1 million is a VERY large “between”! So far, the numbers suggest that Sjögren’s affects more women than men (9 females for every 1 male)—and more middle-aged women than other ages.
There’s no cure, but treatments are available to manage the symptoms—and you DO want to manage them ASAP after being diagnosed! Otherwise, you could end up with eye infections, damaged corneas, increased dental decay and gum inflammation, and, in severe cases, joint problems, lung inflammation, and kidney involvement.
Nobody knows what causes Sjögren’s, but scientists do know that people who have it have abnormal proteins in their blood.
Sjögren’s fatigue is a real thing—and don’t let ANYONE tell you any different! Sometimes, thyroid issues can make the fatigue worse, so it pays to get that checked out.
Everyone with Sjögren’s should thoroughly educate themselves about their disease and stay up-to-date on their doctor’s appointments and health developments