Many people with lupus experience abnormally dry mouths, and this symptom is more than just uncomfortable – it can make other symptoms worse or hint at deeper issues.
Dry mouth is the feeling of stickiness or dryness that is common for people with lupus. Approximately 79-80% (48) of the 93 patients in a lupus study conducted in Brazil had low levels of salivation and dry mouths. That’s a huge percentage, yet few people think about this symptom.
Dry mouth occurs when there isn’t enough saliva being produced in the mouth, and it causes many problems. Saliva is acidic and has enzymes that prevent infection. Without it, microbes colonize the mouth that would otherwise be destroyed, leading to tooth decay and cavities as well as yeast infections of the mouth.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself. Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can affect any organ in the body. Because of this, it can cause dry mouth. Because the immune system of a person with lupus is also not operating at peak effectiveness, infections are not easily fought off, so these problems only become worse until the dry mouth is taken care of. This makes preventing infection hugely important, including the maintenance of saliva and other natural first-line defenses of the immune system. Dry mouth can also cause issues with eating, digestion, chewing, and swallowing.
Sometimes, the mouth is not the only part that is dry. If the eyes are dry, then there can be damage to the eye due to lack of lubrication and the protective tear layer. If mucous production in the throat, and other parts of the body are affected by lupus, it can allow infections to occur there, too. If this happens in the lungs, it can lead to very dangerous pneumonia. A lack of sweat and oil production can cause skin damage and exacerbate cutaneous symptoms of lupus. Dry mouth can be a hint that these other issues are around the corner.