Autoimmune Disease

Sjögren’s Syndrome

Woman putting in eyedrops for Sjögren's Syndrome symptoms

Everything to Know About Sjögren’s Syndrome

At some point in everyone’s life, there comes a time when small, salty drips of fluid escape from our eyes. This action is called “crying” and the liquid that excretes from the eyes are known as tears. When people feel certain powerful emotions such as sadness, distress, happiness, or excitement, the body releases tears as an eye lubricant. Time Magazine explains that a Danish scientist in the mid-1600s named Niels Stensen discovered the lacrimal gland where tears originate\¹. From that point forward, scientists have indulged in studying the chemicals that make up tears, the difference between emotional tears and others shed due to onion chopping, and tears that are induced by certain medical conditions such as pink eye.

However, what about those who cannot produce tears? Our eyes need moisture in order for them to function normally, therefore, those who experience inadequate eye lubrication may be suffering from dry eyes, which can result in a stinging or burning sensation in one or both eyes. Dry eyes is often a condition on its own, however sometimes it can be a symptom of other more serious illnesses such as Sjögren’s Syndrome; an autoimmune disorder that affects moisture producing glands.

 The History of Sjögren’s Syndrome

In 1930’s Sweden, a young woman visited her local ophthalmologist, Dr. Henrik Sjögren, to report symptoms of dry eyes, dry mouth and joint pain. Sjögren had recalled previous cases of these symptoms occurring before, however no one was aware of the strange condition. A few years later, he discovered reports about keratoconjunctivitis sicca (cornea inflammation) in those with extreme dryness within the mouth. Additionally, other case studies revealed these patients also shared polyarthritis. Eventually, Dr. Henrik Sjögren identified a total of 19 women with dry eye and mouth symptoms; 13 of them with additional arthritis. In 1933, he published his doctoral thesis on the condition that officially became known as Sjögren’s Syndrome. Although, at the time of Sjögren’s discovery, the issue of autoimmunity was not well known in the medical industry, thus it was not seen as an autoimmune disease until more research had been conducted to reveal its cause. 

What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system mistakes normal cells and tissues with foreign antigens, causing it to accidentally attack itself. In the case of Sjögren’s, the immune system accidentally attacks exocrine tissues, thereby decreasing liquid production in both the lacrimal and saliva glands. As a result, patients can experience dryness in their eyes, mouth, upper respiratory tract, vagina, nose, and skin, however most individuals report dry eyes and xerostomia (dry mouth) as main symptoms. Contrary to what some may believe, there are actually two forms of the disease: Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome and Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome.

Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome – When the disease develops on its own without the influence of other health conditions or autoimmune disorders.

Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome – When the disease develops as a result of another autoimmune condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

While anybody is susceptible to Sjögren’s, it’s more common in those over the age of 40 with 90% of those affected being women. An article published by Cleveland Clinic estimates that approximately “one to four million Americans have Sjögren’s Syndrome”².

What Causes Sjögren’s Syndrome?

Similar to other autoimmune conditions, the precise cause of Sjögren’s Syndrome remains unknown. Researchers today are still investigating what causes an immune system to turn against itself, however many have theorized a few common factors. These factors include viral infections, nutritional deficiencies, sex hormones and environmental triggers. When this autoimmune condition occurs, white blood cells infiltrate healthy cells in the lacrimal and salivary glands and decrease the liquid production. It’s common for patients to assume these symptoms are a result of an allergy or an irritated eye, especially if the patient wears contact lenses or has a history of poor eyesight. However, if one notices dry mouth, dry nose, stiff joints, dry cough or skin rashes that follow suit, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. If the condition remains untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as tooth decay/loss of teeth, hoarse voice, photophobia, brain fog, vasculitis, and lymphoma.

Treating Sjögren’s Syndrome at LifeWorks

In conventional practice, most doctors order a series of tests including bloodwork, biopsies to detect inflammation, an eye exam to measure tear production or imaging tests to measure saliva production. Based on the results, most doctors will prescribe eye drop medications, saliva producing medications, fluoride treatments or over-the-counter pain relievers. While these methods are effective in managing symptoms, it does not tend to the true problem within the body. Meanwhile, LifeWorks takes a different approach. Prior to receiving treatment for this condition, patients will consult with a LifeWorks practitioner for an accurate diagnosis. They will discuss current and past symptoms, medical history, allergies and other conditions that they may have. Practitioners may order bloodwork or other tests to detect signs of inflammation or toxicity within the body. From there, patients will be provided a thorough program with a series of different treatments such as intravenous therapies, ozone therapies, peptides, supplement regimens and dietary changes. They will be expected to follow the program’s guidelines for the amount of time needed for treatment. Periodically, patients will follow-up with their practitioner to discuss their progression and provide updates on their symptoms.

Eliminate Autoimmunity Naturally

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we’ve successfully treated those with various types of autoimmune disease using natural remedies for 23 years. Those with Sjögren’s Syndrome may feel extreme discomfort, experience mental fatigue, and it may impede on one’s everyday life if it reaches extreme measures. However, it doesn’t have to get to that level. Natural treatments will not only lessen the symptoms of the condition, but also increase one’s energy levels, provide lifestyle changes, and increase one’s all-around quality of life.

If you or someone that you know is currently suffering from Sjögren’s Syndrome, or other forms of autoimmunity, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners at 727-466-6789.

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About Dr. Minkoff

Dr. David Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then completed both a Pediatric Residency and a Fellowship in Infectious Disease at the University of California at San Diego. He worked at the University of California and Children’s Hospitals in San Diego as an attending physician in infectious disease while conducting original research on Ribaviron, a broad spectrum anti-viral agent to fight disease. He also co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine. In 1992, Dr. Minkoff’s attended a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, widely considered the father of functional medicine, during which he had a eureka moment, and began pursuing the alternative health field with a vengeance, studying under the most accomplished thought leaders on natural & integrative healing. In 1997 Dr. Minkoff and his wife set up a small clinic to help friends with their medical problems. What began as an experiment blossomed into LifeWorks Wellness Center, one of the most successful clinics for complementary medicine in the United States.