Important: Sicca Syndrome Patients Should Read This Carefully

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Sicca syndrome patient getting irritated with her dry eyes.

Sicca Syndrome

A good 9 percent of the population all around the world suffer from the symptoms of Sicca Syndrome and the exact reason of its cause is still unknown. Today I’m going to put some facts, tap into the possibilities to cure it, will try my best to provide some value and will ensure you live a normal life after reading this article.

Let’s get started!

What Is Sicca Syndrome?

Sicca is derived from a Latin word “Siccus”, meaning “Dry”. Sicca syndrome is a condition when a person’s exocrine glands stop producing moisture or produce less moisture. Particularly dry eyes (Lacrimal glands) and mouth (Salivary glands) are the two common problems associated with sicca syndrome. This medical condition is referred to as sicca syndrome when there is no evidence of autoimmune disease present. 

While sicca symptoms occur in most of the Sjogren’s patients, not everyone with these symptoms has Sjogren’s.

Sicca syndrome only affects eyes and mouth, but we should not miss an often missed point that Sjogren’s is way too dangerous than sicca syndrome.

Sicca syndrome must not be confused with Sjogren’s syndrome because Sicca disease does not involve any kind of auto immune diseases like Hepatitis or SLE

Symptoms

  • Itchy and gritty eyes, as if there is sand in them.
  • Your mouth may feel like it’s full of cotton, making it difficult to swallow or speak.
  • Persistent dry cough.
  • Loosening of tooths.
  • Prolonged fatigue.
  • Abnormal weight loss.

Abnormal dryness of mouth and eyes are the two most common symptoms of sicca syndrome when you have no autoimmune disease like HIV, Hepatitis or SLE.

People with sicca syndrome may feel anxious all the time because of low saliva production. Itching and irritation in the eyes are also seen.

Abnormal weight loss in sicca syndrome is associated with the low production of saliva and dysfunctioning of mucus glands.

Possible Causes

  • Radiation therapy to the head.
  • Destruction of salivary glands.
  • A side effect of a medication.

Sicca syndrome is thought to result from genetic changes and environmental factors; however, no association between a specific genetic change or environmental factor has been confirmed.

A predisposition of developing sicca syndrome is also thought to be inherited but inheritance pattern of this predisposition is still unknown.

Your mucous glands are unable to produce moisture and there may be a lot of reasons for it. Radiation therapy to the head which is given to the cancer patients causes the destruction of exocrine glands. Certain medication gone wrong may also be a reason as to why your mucous glands are unable to function properly.

Complications

The most common complications in sicca syndrome involve dryness of mouth and eyes. People with sicca syndrome also are more prone to develop dental cavities because saliva helps in keeping the cavities which in a case of sicca aren’t getting produced.

Oral yeast infections, People with sicca syndrome are prone to develop oral thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth.

Vision problems, dry eyes can lead to light sensitivity, blurred vision, and corneal ulcers. A small percentage of people with sicca may also develop numbness in hands, difficulty in walking, tingling and burning in the hands.

Tests and Diagnosis

Eye specialist doing eye test of his patient with sicca syndromeEyes Tests- Your doctor may order eyes tests to measure the dryness in your eyes. The test to check the dryness of your eyes is called Schirmer tear test. In this test, a small piece of filter paper is placed under your lower eyelid to measure your tear production.

A doctor specializing in the treatment of eye disorders (ophthalmologist) may also examine the surface of your eyes with a magnifying device called a slit lamp. He or she may place drops in your eye that make any damage to your cornea easier to see.

Imaging- Doctor may also want to perform an imaging test to check the functioning and current condition of your exocrine glands, particularly Lacrimal and salivary glands. This special type of X-ray is generally done to check the condition of salivary glands.

Sialogram- A special X-ray called a sialogram can detect dye that’s injected into the salivary glands located in front of your ears. This procedure shows how much saliva flows into your mouth.
Salivary scintigraphy– This nuclear medicine test involves the intravenous injection of a radioactive isotope, which is tracked over the course of an hour to see how quickly it arrives in all your salivary glands.
Slit-Lamp Exam– Doctor may use a slit-lamp exam to test the dryness of your eyes and check whether your eyes are inflamed or not. A slip-lamp is a magnifying glass, your doctor while doing this exam will place a drop of colored dye in each eye and then see through slit-lamp. The dye stains parts of the eye that have been damaged as a result of dryness.
Biopsy: A lip biopsy may also be performed to detect the presence of clusters of inflammatory cells, which suggest Sjogren’s syndrome. During the procedure, a small piece of tissue is removed from salivary glands in the lip and examined under a microscope.


 How To Live Normal With It

I’m not gonna tell you anything that’d misguide you. To be clear, treatment of sicca syndrome is yet to be discovered. However, I can tell you plenty of ways through which you can live a normal life like others. Here are the bests I could come up with:

Artificial Tears– Artificial tear can be used as a moisture provider to your eyes. They are made up of hydroxymethyl cellulose or dextran and can be applied in eyes to relieve from dry eyes. It can also be used on people suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome to treat dry eyes.

Artificial Saliva– Artificial saliva products such as Salivart may be used as often as needed to reduce dryness of mouth. Some of these products have calcium and Floride that helps to keep the cavity in your teeth. It’s available in various forms such as mouth washes, spray, and swabs. Mint flavor is most liked.

Tooth Pastes and Gums– Toothpaste such as Botanic Biotene Antibacterial Dry Mouth Toothpaste®) and chewing gums (such as Biotene Dry Mouth Gum®) are available for patients with dry mouths. This toothpaste may help limit a good number of bacterias in the mouth and reduce gum irritations caused by dry mouth. Specially designed chewing gums are made with enzymes similar to those found in saliva.

Picture of a humidifier.Humidifier- Keeping the home air moist will help with dry eyes. Patients can use a humidifier to keep their surrounding moist.

Ultrasonic from Pure Enrichment is considered as the best humidifier. It truly solves the purpose.

 

Some more tips

  • Reduce the use of plasters of lubricants and hair dryer.
  • Drinking plenty of water helps in maintaining the moisture in your mouth.
  • Use of dental care can be considered as appropriate to prevent it from tooth decay.
  • Lemon sugar-free candy or glycerin swabs can be taken to artificially produce saliva.
  • Vitamin E in the form of oil can help and you can see some success in treating symptoms of sicca.
  • You should see your dentist at least twice a month to check if any infection is developed in the mouth or not.

Important Water Exercises

Water Exercises are an important treatment of sicca symptoms. You should aim to do more physical workout but you don’t wanna push yourself hard from the outset when you’re starting. Start slow. Build up your strength and stamina over a period of time. It would mainly help you maintain the moisture of your body.

Water exercises involve exercising in the pool, mainly warm water. It usually is called as Hydrotherapy.

Water exercises you can choose-

Gentle water exercises– Some fitness or recreation centers offer gentle water exercises mainly for over-aged or old people suitable for people with such health conditions.

Four sicca syndrome patient taking hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy– A type of exercise therapy offered by physiotherapists as a group session or as one-on-one training, which is useful if you are new to water exercise or your Sicca syndrome is limiting your ability to exercise.

Thi is basically offered in groups because group activities with people of same conditions help to boost the mood and positivity.

You should check with your doctor before starting any of these exercises, because in some cases over exertion may lead to tiredness and dry mouth.


Sicca symptoms are found in various other diseases and must not be confused with these:

Sjogren’s Syndrome

At primary stage of Sjogren’s syndrome, dryness of eyes and mouth due to the destruction of exocrine glands. But it is more dangerous than sicca syndrome because it doesn’t stop with eyes and mouth but also affects skin, kidney, liver, nose, vagina and every organ that produces moisture.

People with an autoimmune disease is more likely to be diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Sicca symptoms are also found in people dealing with Rheumatoid arthritis. Unbearable joint pain, swelling in the joints are other major symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder which can affect more than just joints. It is an autoimmune system in which body’s immune system starts attacking the organs.

arthritisresearchuk.org has explained Rheumatoid Arthritis in this very informative article.

Bottom Line

Doctors are still struggling with finding its treatment but it is possible to live a normal life with sicca syndrome. With good care and usage of few products, one can treat its symptoms.

An important point I want to make here is, A person is diagnosed with sicca syndrome when he/she is not dealing with any autoimmune disorder.

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