VELLORE: Sjogren’s Syndrome is a common rheumatological problem among Indians, says a study conducted by the Christian Medical College. The findings of the first-of-its-kind study carried out on 332 patients across the country, over a span of ten years, by Dr Debashish Danda, Head of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, contradicts previous Indian studies which described the disorder to be a rare condition.
Speaking at a medical education programme in CMC on Tuesday, Dr Danda said patients do not recognise the symptoms as troublesome unless probed. The research team at CMC initiated several basic projects to better understand the underlying mechanism of the disease and various clinical studies were conducted using curcumin (an active ingredient of turmeric) and fish oils for possible cure.
Explaining the syndrome, the team comprising doctors Ramya, Sandhya, Ashwin Nair and Veghese Koshy said it was found to affect women intensively, the reported prevalence varying between 0.5 per cent and two per cent of various populations in India.
Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic, auto immune disease in which white blood cells attack and destroy moisture-producing glands, causing decreased production of saliva and tears. A Swedish physician, Dr. Henrik Sjogren in 1933, first identified it. Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, the syndrome may also cause dryness of other organs. If left untreated, it may affect the kidneys, GI system, blood vessels, lung, liver, pancreas and the Central Nervous System.
Patients experience debilitating fatigue and joint pain, while some experience mild discomfort and other debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their quality of life.
The CMC study found that SS gets triggered in genetically susceptible individuals following environmental insults such as viral infection. Organ damage arises due to circulating self-antigen and anti-body complexes that get deposited in various parts of the body. This makes patients to experience painless swelling of parotid glands, frequently drink fluids, wake up from sleep due to excessive dryness of mouth. Sensation of sand in eyes, mild joint pain, non-deforming arthritis, pain and fatigue are the other symptoms of the disease.
Dr Robert Fox, an expert from USA who was a special invitee on the occasion explained the treatment options, while pointing out that handling fatigue remained a therapeutic challenge.