Dry mouth and eyes could be signs of common but under-diagnosed medical condition

(ARA) – Many people suffer from dryness symptoms – especially dry mouth and dry eyes. But millions of Americans may not know that these symptoms could be signs of a more serious medical condition, like Sjögren’s (SHOW-grins) syndrome.

Although most people have never heard of it, Sjögren’s is the second most common autoimmune disorder in the United States, affecting almost 4 million people. If left untreated, Sjögren’s symptoms can lead to serious health problems.

Today, it takes about seven years from the first onset of symptoms before a person is diagnosed with Sjögren’s. That’s a long time to suffer from chronic dryness. That is why motivated patients living with Sjögren’s are taking the Defy the Dry campaign to their local communities to educate friends and family about dryness symptoms and Sjögren’s. These volunteer Awareness Ambassadors are also asking healthcare providers to take action by making sure that dryness symptoms are a part of the conversation they have with their patients. The Defy the Dry campaign is sponsored by the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation (SSF) and Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

“One of the main reasons for the delay in obtaining a diagnosis of Sjögren’s is that patients and doctors are simply not talking with each other about dryness symptoms. Patients may wait too long to discuss their symptoms with their doctor or may not communicate how much their symptoms affect their daily lives. Additionally, dryness is not always at the top of the list of symptoms that physicians discuss with patients during every visit,” says Steven Taylor, CEO of the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation. “With the Defy the Dry campaign, we hope to cut the time to diagnosis of Sjögren’s in half within five years.”

Sjögren’s is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks and destroys the moisture-producing glands (e.g. the salivary and tear-secreting glands) in the body. Dry mouth and dry eyes are the hallmark symptoms of Sjögren’s; other symptoms may include joint pain, fatigue, a change in taste or smell, or tooth decay. While there is no known cure for Sjögren’s, treatments are available that may help improve symptoms and prevent further health issues. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, many people with Sjögren’s can continue to lead full lives.

“I used to be a person living with dryness, just like the people we’re trying to reach. I didn’t know that my dry mouth was a sign of something more, so I waited until it began to interfere with my daily activities before seeing my doctor,” says Kathy McCarren. “Now, I’m taking the necessary steps to manage my dry mouth symptoms. As an Awareness Ambassador, I’m making it my mission to encourage people to speak up – earlier and louder – about their dryness symptoms, so they can be diagnosed sooner.”

Visit www.DefytheDry.com to learn more about the campaign and find educational resources about Sjögren’s, information on becoming an Awareness Ambassador, and tools to help patients have more productive conversations about dryness symptoms with their doctors. The tools include a Sjögren’s symptoms checklist and a Sjögren’s checklist that help patients assess their dryness symptoms, and how these symptoms are affecting daily living.