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. They did not indicate whether periodontal disease could be a cause or effect of Sjogren's. In either case, it's something to keep an eye on.
Wakamatsu TH et al, “Conjunctival in vivo Confocal Scanning Laser Microscopy in Patients with Sjogren Syndrome (SS)”, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2009 Aug 20 [Epub].
Bamba R et al, “The minor salivary gland biopsy as a diagnostic tool for Sjogren syndrome”, Laryngoscope. 2009 Oct; 119(10): 1922-6.
Scardina GA et al, “Periodontal Disease and Sjogren Syndrome: A Possible Correlation?” Angiology. 2009 Sep 2 [Epub]
Omega-3 fatty acids:
TNF blocker drugs:
Linda Fugate is a scientist and writer in Austin, Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her background includes academic and industrial research in materials science. She currently writes song lyrics and health articles.