You may have begun noticing the symptoms soon after you turned 40. Your eyes always felt dry and gritty no matter how often you used eye drops. Your mouth was so dry, you could hardly swallow food or even carry on a conversation. More symptoms began to appear, and you finally went to see your doctor.
Dry eyes and mouth are the hallmark of Sjogren's Syndrome, one of the most common autoimmune diseases from which Americans suffer. About 4 million people, mostly women, struggle with the symptoms that seem to have no pattern or cause. If your North Carolina doctor has diagnosed you with Sjogren's, you may feel relief to finally know what is wrong but concern about your future, especially if your symptoms make it impossible for you to work.
Understanding your symptoms
The Social Security Administration recently added Sjogren's (pronounced SHOW-grins) to the list of autoimmune conditions qualifying for disability benefits. Previously, if you wanted to apply for disability because of your Sjogren's, you would have a much more difficult time. Now, however, if your condition prevents you from maintaining any gainful employment, you may qualify for benefits. Some of these symptoms may be quite severe, including these:
- Dry eyes that are susceptible to infection and scarring
- Dry mouth and throat that may result in dental decay and difficulty eating and speaking
- Yeast infections in your mouth
- Joint pain
- Swelling of your glands and lymph nodes
- Painful rashes on your arms and legs
Because Sjogren's is an autoimmune disorder, you may suffer from frequent infections and inflammation in your joints and organs. You likely spend most of your days feeling tired and unwell. Occasionally, Sjogren's sufferers also develop rheumatological conditions or lymphoma.
There is no cure for this condition, and the common course of action is to treat the symptoms. You may make frequent trips to ophthalmologists, dental specialists, rheumatologists, dermatologists and others who will prescribe medicines and therapies to relieve your symptoms. Doctors may also recommend that you carefully control your diet and environment to minimize the symptoms.
If your Sjogren's makes it impossible for you to work to earn a living, you may wish to know about your options, especially regarding your eligibility for Social Security Disability. Speaking with an attorney can be a prudent way to gain that information as well as assistance applying for the benefits you need and deserve.