Extreme Dry Mouth Problem, Dry Eyes Autoimmune Disease

Kenneth198 Asked :

About a year ago I started noticing that my mouth was constantly dry and I was drinking a lot of water to moisturize the mouth. I thought it was diabetes because this is a common symptom, isn’t it? All diabetes tests were clear and about 2 months ago I had other tests and my doctor tells me that it is an immune syndrome. I also have dry eyes for which I have been using eye drops many times a day. Over the past few months, the mouth dryness has become very severe to the point that I feel like my tongue is thick and my speech has actually changed slightly.

Other than this I don’t have any other problems. I do urinate a lot but I think that is because I am drinking so much of water in a day to moisten the mouth. Apart from the odd ache and pain which I think is work related, I feel fairly good for a person of my age (51 yrs). I quit smoking after 18 years and have not touched a cigarette since 1997. My doctor wants me to start steroid tablets and says that it will be a chronic prescription. I do not want to take these drugs because I know they can be dangerous.

Can you tell me what else I could use for my symptoms? Mouth sprays and eye drops only help for short periods of time.

This question was posted under the Dry Mouth Causes, Effects, Symptoms, Treatment article.

Any response by the Health Hype team does not constitute a medical consultation and the advice should be viewed purely as a guide. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your current treatment program. The information provided in this article is not an authoritative resource on the subject matter and solely intends to guide the reader based on the questions asked and information provided.

Dr. Chris Answered :
There are many causes of extreme mouth dryness like what you describe but coupled with the dryness of the eyes and the diagnosis (which you have not stated clearly), it is most likely Sjogren’s syndrome. This is a type of autoimmune disease where the body’s immune cells ‘attack’ the tissue of certain glands rendering it ineffective to moisturize your lining. However, you must speak to your doctor and confirm that this is what he diagnosed.

The ‘thick tongue’ sensation is also due to the mouth dryness and you may find that your parotid and other salivary glands are inflamed. All this together will affect your pronounciation of words and appear as a speech impediment. Despite your best efforts to moisturize the mouth cavity, it will not be sufficient and it will not reduce any salivary gland swelling. Therefore your distorted speech may remain for a long period of time.

If you do have Sjogren’s syndrome, you will need to be on a chronic course of corticosteroid drugs. This will inhibit the immune activity and reduce the inflammation of the affected tissue. Ultimately you will find that along with drugs to increase saliva and tear production, most of your symptoms will settle down and you can continue living your life as it was before this condition developed. Corticosteroids do have a lot of side effects but the chronic dose administered for conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome is very low and the side effects should be minimal.

Also ask your doctor about some anti-malarial drugs which may be helpful in managing your condition. It will be up to your doctor’s discretion if this is the most effective approach but you should be made aware that Sjogren’s syndrome is a life-long condition. If left untreated, it can over time affect other organs and systems of the body leading to much more severe symptoms. The ‘odd ache and pain’ could be the start of arthritis which is a feature of Sjogren’s syndrome so speak to your doctor about your treatment options and commence with the prescribed therapy as soon as possible.

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