Along with symptoms of extensive dryness, other serious complications include profound fatigue, chronic pain, major organ involvement, neuropathies, and lymphomas.
As a systemic disease, affecting the entire body, symptoms may remain steady or worsen overtime. There is no one single progression of the disease and this can make it challenging for patients and their physicians. While some people experience mild discomfort, others suffer debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their functioning. Early diagnosis and proper treatments are important as they may prevent serious complications and greatly improve a patient's quality of life.
About half of the time Sjögren's occurs alone, and the other half it occurs in the presence of another autoimmune connective tissue disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, or Scleroderma.
In addition, Sjögren's is often misrepresented as a rare disease, however it is estimated that there are four million Americans living with this disease, making it one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases.
While many patients experience dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain, Sjögren's can also cause dysfunction of organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients also have a higher chance of developing lymphoma.
A challenge with Sjögren's is that it can mimic other conditions and diseases, giving it a higher chance to be overlooked or misdiagnosed. Nine out of ten diagnosed patients are women, however Sjögren's can be diagnosed in all ages, races and genders. This includes a larger male population with Sjögren's as well as a growing number of patients being diagnosed under 18.
Patients need to remember to be pro-active in talking with their physicians and dentists about their symptoms and potential treatment options as this may help prevent serious complications later on.
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