Sjogren's syndrome and dry mouth share a close relationship and dry mouth is said to be a hallmark symptom of Sjogren's syndrome. Most elderly people suffering from dry mouth are immediately checked for signs of the syndrome. But why does Sjogren's syndrome cause dry mouth? The answer: Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects exocrine or saliva producing glands. With autoimmune disorders, the immune system fails to protect the body from viral or bacterial attack. Instead, the white blood cells of the body actually attack the body tissues. In Sjogren's syndrome, cells attack the salivary glands, causing them to inflame and affecting their capacity to produce saliva. Because the glands are inflamed, and their capacity to produce saliva is diminished, the result is chronic dry mouth. Temporary dry mouth is not necessarily indicative of Sjogren's syndrome. When determining whether or not dry mouth is a result of Sjogren's syndrome, certain patterns can be detected:
Dry mouth persists for more than 3 months.
Recurrent inflammation of the salivary glands.
Swallowing solid food is not possible without liquid intake.
Dry mouth feeling is constant every day, not just during the day or night.
Salivary flow in an un-stimulated state is less than 1.5 ml in every 15 minutes.
There is evidence of obstruction in the ducts of salivary glands.
Excretion from the salivary glands is delayed.
Dry mouth can be treated but not cured if it is caused by Sjogren's syndrome. The syndrome is common among elderly people 60 years of age and above and mostly affects women. Almost 4 million people in America are diagnosed Sjogren's syndrome every year and women are 9 times more vulnerable than men. Dry mouth due to Sjogren's syndrome can lead to other health risks. Chronic dry mouth due to Sjogren's syndrome can also make it difficult to take big bites of food and can cause difficulty in chewing, decreasing the body's ability to extract sufficient quantities of nutrients needed by the body. Recent research has determined that a biopsy of the tongue or the salivary glands confirms the relationship between Sjogren's syndrome and dry mouth. If dry mouth persists, a biopsy can be performed to confirm the syndrome and start treatment.