Improved diagnostics for patients with an autoimmune condition

Sjogren’s syndrome
Rīga

The Sjogren’s syndrome (a rarely mentioned medical condition that is often mistaken for other diseases based on its symptoms) can be accurately diagnosed at the Rheumatology department of the ORTO Clinic. This diagnostic procedure relies on biopsy of the patient’s salivary glands. The biopsy sample can be taken at the rheumatologist’s office at the ORTO Clinic, thus streamlining the medical care for the patient.

The Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune medical condition, where the immune system attacks the patient’s own body. The Sjogren’s syndrome affects mainly tear and salivary glands, resulting in dryness or burning sensation, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, and foreign body sensation in the eyes. A characteristic sign of this medical condition is chronic fatigue.

The Sjogren’s syndrome can be mistaken for other medical problems, because it often occurs together with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, with redness and swelling in the joints and a skin rash. It can also affect the nervous system, blood vessels, lungs, and kidneys. These symptoms are occasionally accompanied by dry caugh, vaginal dryness, dry skin, and infertility. The Sjogren’s syndrome more frequently affects women over 40 years of age. Even though the probability of disease is generally affected by genetic factors, the trigger for the Sjogren’s syndrome is usually a bacterial or viral infection. The Sjogren’s syndrome is quite common among patients with rheumatological conditions.

Dr. Med. Anna Mihailova, a rheumatologist at the ORTO Clinic, has observed that patients with the Sjogren’s syndrome often fail to seek timely medical attention by rheumatologist and the   disease has already damaged the glands. Unfortunately, the functioning of glands in these cases cannot be fully restored. The goal of medical treatment is to stabilize the immune system and to stop the progression of Sjogren’s syndrome at the current stage. Some patients are hesitant to undergo treatment, fearing complications. It is important to know that untreated Sjogren’s syndrome can lead to leukemia, explains Anna Mihailova.

The doctor reassures women after 40 that their tiredness, elevated thirst and weary eyes after many hours of looking at a screen do not necessarily indicate they should visit a rheumatologist. However, if the feeling of dryness and exaustion is accompanied by joint pain or unexplained rash, it is recommended to do a blood test to see if there are changes in the immune system. In the case of deviations from the norm, an appointment with a rheumatologist is warranted.

The Sjogren’s syndrome can be sometimes diagnosed by physical examination, reported symtoms and the results of a blood test, as well as ultrasound imaging of salivary glands. However, when the results of these examinations are inconclusive and the Sjogren’s syndrome is still suspected, biopsy of salivary glands should be performed.

Anna Mihailova uses the biopsy procedure to provide a thorough and timely medical care for her patients. She explains that the procedure is performed under anesthesia and takes 30 minutes. A small incision is made under the tongue, samples of salivary gland tissue are taken and the incision is closed with two stitches. The incision site will remain sensitive for a few days after the procedure, but that is a minor inconvenience compared to the opportunity to detect this disease and to stop its progression.