Sjogren’s syndrome is an immune system disorder that causes, among other symptoms, pervasive dry eyes and dry mouth. It often manifests in combination with rheumatoid arthritis and/or lupus, and is most common among women who are older than age 40. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disorders, approximately one to four million people in the United States have Sjogren’s syndrome, though many people with this disease are not diagnosed.
As with other immune disorders, Sjogren’s syndrome causes the immune system to attack healthy cells. Because the affected glands with Sjogren’s are responsible for providing moisture, dry mucus membranes in the eyes and mouth are the most common symptoms. Other symptoms may include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness; dry skin and other areas of the body; and fatigue. If these symptoms are untreated, complications including cavities, yeast infections, and vision problems may occur. Rarely, people with Sjogren’s may experience painful inflammation that affects the liver, lungs, and kidneys.
While Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic condition, treatments are available to help manage symptoms. These typically include prescriptions to increase saliva production and eyedrops to combat dry eyes, as well as over the counter or prescription pain medications if joint pain is present. Lifestyle remedies can also help lessen some of your symptoms. It’s important to make sure that you consume enough fluids throughout the day, use eyedrops, moisturizer, and nasal spray if needed, and get enough rest. Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are also important for maintaining good health.
For those Sjogren’s patients with joint pain, medical marijuana may help alleviate this symptom, though it is not effective for dry mouth or dry eyes. Cannabis is currently legal to specifically treat Sjogren’s syndrome only in Illinois, but is legal for treatment of chronic pain in all but one state with medical marijuana laws.
According to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, medical marijuana is effective in reducing musculoskeletal pain such as the type caused by rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s. This is significant, since approximately half of people who have Sjogren’s also have one of those other two diseases. However, because inhaled (smoked) cannabis can exacerbate dry mouth, it is recommended that medical marijuana be vaporized or consumed in an edible form. It’s important to be aware that marijuana can also lead to fatigue, so if that’s a symptom you’re experiencing cannabis may not be the best treatment option for you.
For more information visit the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation.