“When you’re so tired it’s hard to explain but the quality of your life goes down. I’d go to the doctor and say I don’t feel good and they didn’t know why.”
– Venus Williams
Sjogren’s Syndrome is a serious condition that affects the quality of life. A Sjogren’s lupus combination presents a unique challenge.
Professional tennis star Venus Williams is ranked eighth in the world as a female tennis singles player. She’s known for playing hard and having a slight—but loveable—attitude on the court. Off the court, she’s an entrepreneur who owns her own interior design firm.
This constantly on-the-go woman also has a rheumatic condition. Diagnosed in 2011, Williams created a platform for Sjogren’s Syndrome. She drew attention to this little known autoimmune disease and shed light on symptoms people were experiencing as real life-altering problems.
What Is Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) Syndrome is when the body mistakenly attacks its own immune system—just like lupus. The two most common symptoms for a person with Sjogren’s Syndrome are dry mouth and dry, itchy eyes because the immune system usually targets the glands that make tears and saliva.
Other symptoms can develop in an individual with Sjogren’s, such as:
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Skin rashes and dry skin
- Vaginal dryness—(women are 9 times more likely to develop Sjogren’s)
- Persistent dry cough
- Drawn out fatigue
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Accordingly, Sjogren’s can advance and target other parts of the body other than the salivary glands such as the joints, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, skin, and nerves.
Possible complications from Sjogren’s includes:
- Dental cavities—saliva deters bacterial infection
- Yeast infection of the mouth or oral thrush
- Vision problems such as corneal damage
- Cirrhosis in your liver
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- Lymphoma—in very severe cases
Sjogren’s and Lupus
Sjogren’s syndrome is an undertaking by itself. #LupusWarriors, however, are more susceptible to developing Sjogren’s (as well as other chronic illnesses). Regarding most comorbid rheumatic cases involving Lupus, the second condition will follow shortly after the initial Lupus diagnosis. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to develop a second or third overlapping illness 5 or more years down the road.
Both disorders can develop into collagen vascular diseases. A strong distinction between Sjogren’s and lupus is sensitivity to light—individuals with Sjogren’s do not have this disease attribute. The main similarities are skin problems. Sjogren’s basically strips moisture from the body, and skin rashes from flares or sun exposure occur with lupus.
Skin Care Is Essential
For individuals that have Sjogren’ lupus combination, skin care should be a high priority. Lesions from lupus can cause scarring especially if there is lack of moisture. Moisturized skin heals better than dried out skin.
Choose products that have hypoallergenic, natural-leaning ingredients (in order to diminish the risk of the other reactions) and ultra moisturizing properties. A high-quality vegetable oil found at the local health food store such as argan or almond oil is perfect for skin nourishment and softening. (Maybe go exotic and try baobab oil!)
Don’t Ignore Your Symptoms—Tell Your Provider
When diagnosed with lupus, develop a plan to track symptoms and flares. Activities such as journaling can be extremely helpful to determine if other coexisting conditions are developing or have already begun. Communicate with your medical team and know there are medical and easy lifestyle actions to take if diagnosed with Sjogren’s and lupus.
Lifestyle Tips for Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Keep high-humidity work and home environments—humidifiers are fantastic
- Breathe through the nose, not the mouth—just like in yoga
- Be aware of medications that cause dry mouth
- Pay close attention to the health of your teeth and gums
- Be cautious of consuming foods that irritate and tear mouth tissue
- Don’t smoke or spend time in locations where others are smoking
- Make sure oral hygiene products are non-irritating
- Be careful of alcoholic beverages—they can cause dry mouth