The second most common rheumatic autoimmune disease is one called Sjogren’s, (pronounced SHOW-grins), and nine of 10 people diagnosed are women, although it’s been found in all racial and ethnic groups, and children.
It was identified in 1933 by a Swedish doctor, and there seems to be a link with people of western and northern European ancestry. While it affects four million Americans, it takes an average of about five years to diagnose from the time initial symptoms appear.
The problem is that many of the symptoms mimic menopause, drug side effects, and conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and serious diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus. The hallmark symptoms are dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain, but the disease is systemic, affecting the whole body.
Diagnosis can be difficult, however it can be confirmed by certain blood tests to measure inflammation, eye tests for tear production and salivary tests.
The Sjogren’s Foundation launched a campaign in 2012 called “50in5: to shorten the time to diagnose Sjogren’s by 50% in 5 years.”
For more information, visit www.sjogrens.org.