How Sjogren's Syndrome Affects Digestion and the Eyes #sjogrens

Sjogren’s Affecting Digestion and the Eyes

I know that Sjogren’s has an affect on my eyes, but I’m curious as to how it affects my digestion. I know that without saliva, the digestion process is slowed down. I personally believe that the amount of water I drink to get the food down, isn’t as good as the saliva in starting the digestive process.

So today, I want to look more in depth to digestion and the eyes when we are living with Sjogren’s.

How Sjogren's Syndrome Affects Digestion and the Eyes #sjogrens #dryeye

Sjogren’s and Digestion

Inflammation in the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, and liver can cause problems like painful swallowing, heartburn, abdominal pain and swelling, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and weight loss. It can also cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and cirrhosis (hardening of the liver). Sjogren’s is closely linked to a liver disease called primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), which causes itching, fatigue, and, eventually, cirrhosis. Many patients with PBC have Sjogren’s.

Treatment varies, depending on the problem, but may include pain medicine, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, and immunosuppressants.

90% of those with Sjögren’s and Scleroderma have GI complaints. Findings include focal infiltration of predominantly T-helper lymphocytes with or without glandular atrophy and nerve dysfunction. For persistent GI problems in those with Sjögren’s, a Neurogastroenterology or GI Motility Center may be an option.

Back the truck up! What are T-helper lymphocyctes?

Helper T cells are arguably the most important cells in adaptive immunity, as they are required for almost all adaptive immune responses. They not only help activate B cells (B lymphocytes are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow.) to secrete antibodies and macrophages (a large phagocytic cell found in stationary form in the tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, especially at sites of infection.) to destroy ingested microbes, but they also help activate cytotoxic T cells to kill infected target cells.

What about GERD?

GERD: A digestive disease in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining.

While the exact reasons are unknown, many patients with Sjögren’s suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can cause a wide variety of symptoms that can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms may include:

  • persistent heartburn and/or regurgitation of acid
  • stomach pain
  • hoarseness or voice change
  • throat pain
  • sore throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • sensation of having a lump in the throat
  • frequent throat clearing and chronic cough (especially at night time or upon awakening)

I have to clear my throat quite often. I also get hoarse in the evenings. Since I changed my diet I don’t have heartburn like I use to. I do feel like I have a sore throat quite often. It will last a day or two and then it is gone. I never feel like I have a throat infection. My throat will simply hurt.

Sjogren’s and the Eyes

Sjogren’s syndrome destroys glands responsible for lubricating eyes and other parts of the body.

Did you know that it’s estimated that 1 in 10 dry eye patients also have Sjogren’s syndrome; and it can take up to four years or longer from onset of the disease to get an accurate diagnosis.

Other eye symptoms that can occur with Sjogren’s syndrome include blurred vision, a gritty or burning sensation and light sensitivity.

Everyday I experience the feeling of having something in my eye. I usually have these small white specks that I have to remove. Every once in a while I will get one of these white things stuck to my eye. It is usually on the bottom of my eye under the iris. It take s a while for it to come off, but while I’m waiting I have to use a lot of eye drops because it is so irritating. says that because chronic dry eye is one of the major symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome, you must make sure your eyes are lubricated to avoid damage that can lead to scarring and infection of the eye.

3 Types of Tears

Basal tears are the ones in our eyes all the time, and serve the purpose of lubricating, nourishing and protecting the eyes.

Reflex tears, form to protect the eyes from irritants, such as wind, smoke or onions. And there’s some evidence to suggest that these two kinds of tears are chemically different from each other.

Emotional tears are the third type of tears. We all have these tears when we watch a sad movie, get into a fight with someone we love, or learn of someone’s passing.



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