Friday, March 23, 2007

What the heck is wrong with me...

I know I said I would touch on my medical issues… so here goes.

In 2002 I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 in 500 people. Middle-aged women are more predominantly affected than men, comprising about 90% of those affected. The most common symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are excessively dry eyes and mouth due to lower tear and saliva production.

Other symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome occur in varying degrees. These can include arthritis, pain in the muscles and nerves, low thyroid function or a swollen thyroid gland, and increased pain or swelling in the lymph nodes. Those affected may also suffer from fatigue and sleep deprivation.

In autoimmune disorders, the body fails to recognize normal body functions and chemical productions. In Sjogren's, the body’s white cells attack and fight the natural processes of tear and saliva production. Dry eyes may result in redness, burning, and itching. Dry mouth can increase dental cavities, create very sore throats, and in more severe cases can cause difficulty in speaking or in swallowing. Sense of taste may also be reduced.

As with most autoimmune disorders, Sjogren's syndrome has no cure, but there are treatments that can help allay the effects. For dry eyes, the most common method of treatment is artificial tear eye drops. Particular care should be taken to use these in dry air environments, such as on airplanes or in offices that use air conditioning. When artificial tears do not sufficiently address the problem, surgery is occasionally attempted to slow the destruction of the tear producing glands.

Good oral hygiene is essential. Regular dental cleanings are a must, and toothpastes should contain low levels of peroxide. Reducing intake of liquids that deplete the body of moisture, such as sodas with caffeine or coffee, can also help. In addition, the use of medications that cause dry mouth may need to be evaluated for risk versus benefits.

When other painful symptoms present, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium may be prescribed to alleviate pain. If the disease is seriously affecting the organs of the body, physicians may prescribe steroids to decrease both pain and possible infection. Sjogren's syndrome patients are also observed for lymphatic cancer, as it tends to occur in about 5% of those affected.

So that brings us to current… well some nerve and muscle things are going on now, thus the trip with JT to Seattle. I will update while down there if I can…

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