What is Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition where the immune system damages healthy parts of the body. The condition affects areas of the body that produce fluids e.g., tears and saliva. It can also affect nerves and joints. It is often accompanied by rheumatoid arthritis and lupus which is called secondary Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome can happen at any stage and to anyone, however, is it more common in women and over the age of 40. This condition is a long-term condition which doesn’t usually get better on its own, however the symptoms can be managed and treated.
Secondary Sjogren’s Syndrome
If you have any other autoimmune disease, it is called secondary Sjogren’s syndrome. With secondary you still experience symptoms however these may be milder than someone with primary Sjogren’s. It is linked to rheumatoid arthritis, primary biliary cholangitis, lupus, or scleroderma.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome
• Dry eyes
• Dry mouth
• Dry skin
• Rashes (especially after sun exposure)
• Vaginal dryness
• Muscle pain
• Joint pain or stiffness
• Nerve pain
• Swelling around ears and jaw (salivary glands)
Less common symptoms
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Inflammation of liver, kidneys, pancreas or lungs
• Premature menopause
Sjogren’s syndrome has also been linked to conditions including:
• Peripheral neuropathy – involves loss of sensation in the hands and feet
• Raynaud’s phenomenon
• Kidney problems
• Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Teeth cavities
Using cryotherapy to relieve symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome
Whole body cryotherapy is a form of treatment when the patient is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for a short amount of time by standing in an enclosed chamber. Cryotherapy has been proven to help the symptoms of conditions like arthritis, atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions as well as nerve irritation (Kliemenko, et al.,2008), (Metzger, et al.,2000.)
In cryotherapy the surface of the skin is cooled by 15 degrees which increases blood flow and reduces interior inflammation by constricting the blood vessels, therefore reducing skin inflammation and redness. This will help the patient if they suffer from itchy skin, swelling around the jaw and ears as well as joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
Cryotherapy triggers neurological, endocrine, and immune regulatory functions. This increases white blood cell count which causes an anti-inflammatory response. The endocrine system releases endorphins which reduce stress and cortisol levels which in turn has been shown to help with chronic inflammation, pain and fatigue (Bettoni et al., 2013)
Using massage to relieve symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome
Massage of the salivary glands has been proven to reduce swelling of the parotid and submandibular salivary glands by aiding the salivary flow (Douglas, L.,2018).
Massage has been shown to have a beneficial effect on many different conditions including prenatal depression, preterm infants, full-term infants, autism, skin conditions, pain syndromes including arthritis and fibromyalgia, hypertension, autoimmune conditions including asthma and multiple sclerosis, immune conditions including HIV, breast cancer, Parkinson’s, and dementia.
Massage can help to reduce/relieve pain by relaxing painful muscles, tendons, and joints. It also relieves stress and anxiety by reducing cortisol levels in the body. Massage also stimulates nerve fibres which helps to close the pain gate by stopping the pain messages getting to the brain.
Complications that can be caused by Sjogren’s Syndrome
Patients with primary Sjogren’s have an increased risk of developing Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is cancer of the lymphatic system. However, this only affects around 5% of patients with the syndrome. The patient will experience persistent salivary gland swelling and enlarged lymph nodes if this occurs patients need to be carefully monitored and referred for oncologic evaluation.
If the symptoms of dry eyes aren’t treated, then they can become inflamed and develop ulcers. If left untreated with eye drops corneal ulcers can lead to vision loss and permanent sight damage.
If planning on becoming pregnant with Sjogren’s you will have to consult a GP to test for certain antibodies as they are known to cause temporary lupus rash in newborns. In very rare cases it can also cause heart defects in babies. This doesn’t mean pregnancy isn’t an option just the baby may need specialist care during the pregnancy and after birth.
British Sjogren’s Syndrome Association (BSSA)
The BSSA are a registered charity founded in 1986. Its main aims are to raise awareness of Sjogren’s, educate people about the condition and support research into its causes and treatments. The BSSA help members by providing them information and support this is distributed by literature in the quarterly newsletter, national helpline facility and hosting regional meetings.
The website has latest news which provides patient with key information on how to look after yourself, and get winter ready etc. The information is updated regularly to help those who are living with Sjogren’s. If you also become a member, they provide information and support, informative magazine, national helpline, regional meetings, make a friend scheme, annual medical meetings with talks from experts, members forum and full access to the website for information.
Click here to read their information sheet on Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Cryotherapy at Cryojuvenate in Sevenoaks, Kent
Cryotherapy kick starts the body’s natural healing processes and provides natural pain relief with anti-inflammatory benefits. You can learn more about our cryochamber and the benefits here. If it’s your first time trying out the cryochamber with us, you can get £20 off with our special introductory price, here are some useful links: