Dry eyes and dry mouth may be the only symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome, or this autoimmune disease may progress to become a devastating systemic illness. One of our members started a conversation about this condition last April. I checked the medical literature and found some promising news.
There are currently 46 clinical trials listed on the web site http://clinicaltrials.gov, 17 of which are seeking new volunteers. Two over-the-counter treatments are being tested:
1.DHEA, a hormone manufactured commercially from a precursor found in wild yams. In the body, DHEA is the starting material for the synthesis of estrogen, testosterone, and chemically similar hormones that are used by the immune system; and
2.Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in cold water fatty fish, widely used for a variety of health conditions.
Drugs under investigation include the TNF blocker etanercept (Enbrel). This is a powerful immune suppressive drug which have shown both great benefits and serious adverse effects in treating other autoimmune conditions. See Reference 6. Cyclosporin A, the classic immunosuppressive drug for organ transplants, is also in trials for Sjogren's. Other drugs being tested are rituximab, mycophenolate, hydroxychloroquine, rebamipide, pilocarpine, anakinra, dexamethasone, azathioprine, and thalidomide (the infamous drug that caused birth defects in the 1950's).
Other therapies in clinical trials include mesenchymal stem cells from adult donors. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) is already in use for some patients, and is being tested further in current trials.
Other research offers updates on diagnostic testing methods. Scanning laser microscopy has been reported to be valuable as a quantitative assessment tool. Another study reported that the standard lip biopsy is not necessary for most cases.
Periodontal (gum) disease was linked to Sjogren's syndrome in a report published Sept. 2. The authors examined the blood vessels in the gums of Sjogren's syndrome patients, and found distinctive changes in the capillaries, compared to those of healthy controls.