July 23rd is World Sjögren’s Day, a celebration of Dr. Henrik Sjögren who was the ophthalmologist to discover Sjögren’s syndrome in 1933. Sjögren’s (pronounced “SHOW-grins”) is an immune system disorder identified by its two most prevalent symptoms: Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
What is World Sjögren’s Day?
World Sjögren’s Day falls on Dr. Sjögren’s birthday with the hope of bringing awareness to Sjögren’s syndrome. A person suffering from Sjögren’s will suffer from dryness in the eyes and mouth because their immune system will attack the glands responsible for keeping these body parts moist. The severity of Sjögren’s syndrome varies widely, from discomfort to impairment.
Millions of people currently live with Sjögren’s disease. On World Sjögren’s Day, it’s encouraged that those affected by this syndrome share their story in hopes of educating others on how this disorder impacts their health and life.
Since there are numerous people who may be living with Sjögren’s and not know it, World Sjögren’s Day might help someone get a proper diagnosis and get on the path to managing their symptoms in the most effective way.
What Causes Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome can develop at any age, but it’s most common in individuals over 40. It often accompanies other disorders that impact the immune system, such as lupus, but it can also occur on its own. Usually, the mucous membranes responsible for secreting moisture for the eyes and mouth are affected first.
Women are more likely to suffer from Sjögren’s, but scientists aren’t sure why anyone develops the disease. Certain genes increase the risk of developing Sjögren’s, but it appears that some sort of trigger is necessary, like getting an infection from a particular virus or strain of bacteria at some point in your life.
Aside from causing dry mouth and dry eyes, Sjögren’s also impacts your joints, thyroid, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin and nerves. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Sjögren’s, but several treatments can help alleviate the symptoms, which is why getting a proper diagnosis is important.
How You Can Help on World Sjögren’s Day
If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms similar to Sjögren’s, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor. While there is no specific test for Sjögren’s, a rheumatologist — which is a type of specialist for autoimmune diseases — can help you confirm a diagnosis.
Regardless of whether you’ve been personally impacted by Sjögren’s, World Sjögren’s Day is a time to educate ourselves on this disorder and help raise awareness for the common symptoms that could be silently impacting someone you love. On July 23rd and throughout the year, use your voice and do your part to help those who are struggling to find the answers they’ve been searching for.