Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva. Sjögren's syndrome is also associated with rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and affects 1-4 million people in the United States. Most people are more than 40 years old at the time of diagnosis. Women are 9 times more likely to have Sjögren's syndrome than men.
The most common symptoms include dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and musculoskeletal pain. Since symptoms of Sjögren’s mimic other conditions and diseases, Sjögren’s can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed. On average, it takes nearly 3 years to receive a diagnosis of Sjögren’s.
Peripheral Neuropathy of Sjögren’s Syndromes
Neuropathy, which means inflammation and/or damage to the peripheral nerves, can affect patients with Sjögren’s. Neuropathy can cause various symptoms, from “numbness,” to “coldness;” in its most severe, neuropathy has been described as a burning sensation. Neuropathy can also cause weakness and clumsiness.
Other types of Neuropathy which can occur in Sjögren’s Syndrome?
1. Autonomic neuropathy
Sjögren’s syndrome can cause nerve damage which regulates the coordination of heartbeat, respiration, and gastric motility. This is called an “autonomic neuropathy”. Examples of symptoms include lightheadedness when standing, decreased or increased sweating, and feeling full despite eating small meals.
2. Trigeminal neuralgia and glossopharyngeal neuralgia
Sjögren’s syndrome can cause numbness or burning of the face, called “trigeminal neuralgia.” Pain in the back of the throat, which may worsen while swallowing, is called “glossopharyngeal neuralgia.” Patients with trigeminal or glossopharyngeal neuralgia can have agonizing mouth and facial pain. These neuropathies may co-exist with other neuropathies in different parts of the body.
3. Mononeuritis multiplex
More severe patterns of weakness or clumsiness may cause weakness or paralysis of different muscles, and is called “mononeuritis multiplex”. These more cataclysmic episodes of numbness or weakness necessitate a thorough diagnostic evaluation.
A neurological examination is crucial in providing objective evidence of peripheral neuropathy. Patients need to remember to be pro-active in talking with their physicians about their symptoms and potential treatment options. To schedule an appointment call (910) 295-6868.
To learn more about Sjögren’s Syndrome visit: https://www.sjogrens.org/home/about-sjogrens
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