That is an excellent question. When I was first diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome 15 years ago, I was just worried about dry mouth and dry eyes. I figured I was just one of those people that will have perpetually dry skin. Little did I know these seemingly simple symptoms were actually due to an autoimmune disease that would soon wreak havoc on my life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that mostly affects the mucous membranes and salivary glands of the eyes and mouth. For most it stops with that, but it can also affect the kidneys, lungs, and liver. Fortunately, my liver is still hanging on for dear life. The kidneys and lungs, however, took the bait. It mostly affects women who may have been predisposed to other rheumatic diseases, such as Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis.
When I was 4 years old, I was diagnosed with a form of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis which doctors have explained was a precursor to Sjogren’s. I learned that these autoimmune diseases can manifest from one to the other. Likely my JRA transitioned to Sjogren’s once it went into remission. The other frustrating component of autoimmune disease is that no two are alike. We are uniquely special, but not always in a good way. I swear I have Lupus, but every single diagnostic lab test comes back negative. Fortunately for me the treatments for Lupus and Sjogren’s are mostly the same. There is so much overlap between diagnoses, it is often hard to pinpoint the exact, appropriate treatment.
Click here to learn more about Sjogren’s and how you can support your loved ones living with Sjogren’s.