More Than Just Dry Eyes and Mouth

Inflammation Of The Spinal Cord

Some patients with Sjögren’s syndrome may develop myelitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the spinal cord. In addition to being painful, it may cause weakness, difficulty using the bathroom, and numbness throughout the body. Many patients dealing with Sjögren’s syndrome are misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis at first, as inflammation of the spinal cord is an incredibly common symptom in both of these diseases. However, the treatments for both Sjögren’s syndrome and multiple sclerosis are very different and may cause a flare-up or worsen the conditions if not treated properly.

Other Autoimmune Disorders

As with many autoimmune diseases, having one autoimmune disorder like Sjögren’s syndrome often greatly increases an individual’s risk of developing more. Patients who suffer from Sjögren’s syndrome are at a particularly high risk of developing an autoimmune condition called Devic’s disease, which causes significant inflammation in the nerves connecting the eyes to the brain. This condition can also cause myelitis, which once again makes it easy to confuse with multiple sclerosis, thus enforcing why close attention must be paid to symptoms. Weakness associated with Devic’s disease may be more severe than in other autoimmune conditions.

Muscle Weakness Or Imbalance

Experiencing imbalance in the muscles or muscle weakness can be a sign of a more serious condition linked with Sjögren’s syndrome called mononeuritis multiplex, which occurs when there is inflammation in a patient’s smaller blood vessels. This condition is otherwise known as a stroke of the nervous system, as the muscles and nerves surrounding affected blood vessels may stop receiving blood and oxygen. Mononeuritis multiplex can be detected through nerve-conduction tests. Treatment for this condition and symptom often includes select medication and immunosuppressant drugs that aim to reduce inflammation of the blood vessels.

Irregular Heartbeat

Neuropathy occurs when there is inflammation or damage to the peripheral nerves, and it has been known to affect patients with Sjögren’s syndrome. Neuropathy symptoms are described as coldness, numbness, or a burning sensation in the skin. It may also cause imbalance and weakness in muscles. Because Sjögren’s syndrome may target nerves that are not always tested on routine nerve conduction tests, neuropathy can be hard to detect. In some cases, Sjögren’s syndrome may cause autonomic neuropathy, which may result in an irregular heartbeat, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiration problems as well.

Numbness Of The Face

Sjögren’s syndrome may be an underlying cause of a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia, which occurs when there is numbness or burning of the face. In some cases, the condition may worsen and develop into what is known as glossopharyngeal neuralgia. Patients who experience glossopharyngeal neuralgia report symptoms like agonizing mouth or facial pain, along with severe difficulty swallowing. These symptoms may exist with other neuropathies in the body. Reports indicate up to twenty percent of patients with low-grade neuropathy may also be dealing with trigeminal neuralgia.

Disruption Of Normal Kidney Function

In a 2001 study by the Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation organization of Europe, it was concluded kidney function could frequently become impaired due to Sjögren’s syndrome. Symptoms directly related to this condition include kidney stones, nocturia, and polyuria. The same type of inflammation in the kidney caused by Sjögren’s syndrome can also affect other organs in the body, such as bronchitis in the lungs or cirrhosis of the liver. Correct treatment of Sjögren’s syndrome will slow the onset of kidney disease, which highlights the importance of a prompt diagnosis. The reported instances of kidney impairment or disease vary incredibly widely. The most common causes of kidney disease are hereditary or related to high blood pressure and diabetes.

The Gastrointestinal System Is Performing Poorly

The lack of saliva in those with Sjögren’s syndrome cause a wealth of problems for the gastrointestinal tract and the digestion and breaking-down of foods and acids. The lack of saliva can impede the clearing of acid from the stomach which can result in acid reflux. This condition can also cause abdominal pain due to the build-up of acid, and some symptoms are even appendicitis-like. Problems with the esophagus can lead to some dry foods being unable to be eaten by individuals with Sjögren’s syndrome. Specifically, patients with this condition are at increased risk for a delayed gastric emptying; this causes nausea, upper abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. In very rare cases, Sjögren’s syndrome patients can develop pancreatitis (acute or chronic) as well as malabsorption due to pancreatic insufficiency.

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