Living with Sjögren’s Syndrome, and How Acupuncture Can Help
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Dry cough and hoarseness
Dry or chalky feeling in mouth
Burning mouth syndrome
Eyes that feel gritty, itch or burn
Cavities and tooth decay
Loss of taste
Swollen salivary glands
Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
Muscle pain and/or weakness
Chronic or prolonged fatigue
Symptoms associated with Raynaud’s
Symptoms associated with Hashimotos
These are the symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome, one of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases in the U.S.
It is estimated that 7,000,000 people have it, although only 4,000,000 have actually been identified as it can be very difficult to diagnose.
90% of the cases are women, and symptoms and severity can vary greatly.
Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking the body. In the case of Sjögren’s syndrome, white blood cells attack is the healthy tissues and cells, specifically in the moisture-producing glands. This leads to the symptoms of dry eyes, mouth, skin, and/or lips. If it worsens, the attack can spread to the joints, nerves, soft tissue, and some organs as well.
While this disorder goes into remission for some, and symptoms may come and go for others, some people may experience more serious complications such as cystic lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, lymphoma, interstitial lung disease, lymphoma, vision problems, and organ function. Sjogren’s may also co-occur with other autoimmune diseases; unfortunately this is the case with roughly 50% sufferers.
Some potential risk factors for Sjogren’s syndrome include:
Being over the age of 50
Family members with autoimmune disease
Certain genetic markers
Unfortunately, like most autoimmune disorders, there is currently no cure. That said, there are ways to manage symptoms, prevent further development, and even promote remission! Many people are able to live a very high quality, normal and health life.
One study examining the use of acupuncture for dry eye symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome found that participants who received acupuncture in conjunction with lubricating eye drops had a 23% higher rate of improvement than patients who only received drops. Stress management is also important for people suffering from autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s. This is an area where acupuncture excels. Additionally, acupuncture was associated with increased tear production, as well as slower evaporation of tears. Other research found that acupuncture was associated with decreased use of artificial tears in the longterm. Acupuncture has also been found to improve dry mouth by boosting blood flow, which in turn increases salivary flow. Sipping bone broth throughout the day may also improve dry mouth while also potentially helping symptoms of GERD, relieving inflammation, and supporting healthy joints and skin.
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