I've finally decided to own up to my blood tests. Several months ago, my rheumatologist told me that I have (or will have) Sjogren's Syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands.
Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.
When my doctor explained the disease, he mentioned the dryness effect. Dry eyes and mouth ... I couldn't recall ever having those symptoms. But after connecting with others who live with Sjogren's, I've learned there really is much more to it than that.
- Dry skin (Maybe that's why I've been moisturizing like a fanatic)
- Fatigue (I always chalked this up to being a mom-of-3, but no matter how much sleep I get, I'm still tired. I used to have energy. Really, I did.)
- Ear pain (My ears have been "popping" a lot lately. It's annoying)
- Joint pain (You'd think with a titanium hip, my join pain would lessen. But, nope)
- Difficulty swallowing (yep)
- Always thirsty (yep)
- "Brain fog" - a lay term to describe fluctuating mild memory loss (I'm a tried and true blond, but it's possible)
- Celiac Disease (between 4.5% and 15% of people with Sjogren's also have Celiac Disease, which I do have a lot of symptoms for - I need to look into this further, but it's been on my mind. I've ignored it, because I don't really want to eat Gluten-free)
Since symptoms of Sjögren’s mimic other conditions and diseases, Sjögren’s can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed. On average, it takes nearly seven years to receive a diagnosis of Sjögren’s.
Lucky (or unlucky) for me, I was on a fast track for diagnosis, because my doctor's were trying to figure out why I developed Avascular Necrosis (though Sjogren's Syndrome is not a known cause of Avascular Necrosis). Last week, I was re-tested and my blood levels still indicated that I have Sjogren's Syndrome. I don't know why I thought that it would just go away.
I guess what all this rambling sums up to is that I probably do have Sjogren's Syndrome. And until the blood tests reveal that I don't, I'm going to "work it" and "own it."
I plan to start taking Plaquenil, which is what my doctor suggested to slow the progression of Sjogren's. Since using Mirena, I've been picky about any prescriptions, and I pay closer attention to side effects. I was nervous about Plaquenil because it's main side effect is vision impairment. I happen to have 20/20 vision and that is not something I want to forfeit. But other Plaquenil users say this hasn't been a problem for them, so if it'll save the rest of my body, I'm willing to give it a shot.
Another interesting tidbit: Sjogren's Syndrome is what forced Venus Williams out of the U.S. Open last year (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyNews/venus-williams-sjogrens-syndrome/story?id=14426884#.UBhluHCxpsM)