Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complicated, systemic autoimmune disorder. Although it primarily affects the lining of membranes that cover the joints, it can also cause serious complications that have nothing to do with the joints. The bad news, it may develop with another autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome for example. Does it cause dry mouth?
Also called xerostomia, is a condition in which the mouth is abnormally /unusually dry. Typically, it occurs when there is no enough saliva produced by salivary glands in the mouth.
Saliva serves a number of functions, for examples:
- It is required to help swallow foods and boost your ability to taste.
- It contains enzymes to help aid in your digestion.
- It is also essential to protect your teeth from tooth decay by restricting bacterial growth, washing away particles of food, and neutralizing acids.
Dry mouth is quite common. It can vary from being merely a nuisance to severe enough to cause a major impact on your teeth’s health – as well as your enjoyment of food, appetite, or even your general health.
If you have abnormal dry mouth, you may also develop some of the following symptoms:
- Dryness in the throat.
- Trouble in chewing and swallowing. Even sometimes you may have difficulty speaking.
- Odor, bad breath.
- Decreased sense of taste.
- Thick or/and stringy saliva.
- Dryness of your mouth may cause gum disease such as gum irritation.
- More frequent tooth pain (tooth decay).
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. In most cases, it is caused by a side effect of particular medication. Less often, there may be an underlying condition behind the problem – especially conditions that affects the salivary glands.
Normally, the immune system is essential to help protect the body from harmful things such as bad bacteria and virus. But in few cases, it goes awry and attacks the wrong target.
Rheumatoid arthritis is linked to the abnormality of the body immune system in which it mistakenly attacks its own healthy membranes called ‘synovium’ that surround the joints. It’s not fully known what causes this abnormality.
In general, here are some factors that can put you at high risk of developing this systemic joint disorder:
- RA runs in families, though not always. If a member of your family (especially first degree relative such as sister, brother, mother, or father) has RA, your risk to develop the same condition may increase.
- Women are at higher risk than men to develop the disease.
- Age! RA is more common at the ages of 40 and 60, though it can affect people of all ages.
- Environmental factors such as exposure to silica or asbestos. It’s also thought that exposure to tobacco smoke may increase the risk – smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop RA.
- The disease is common in obese people. Even some experts say that obesity may increase the risk.
Since the effect of the abnormality of immune system is systemic, over time the disease may also affect other parts of the body. For examples, it can pose the risk of the following complications:
- Weakened bones (osteoporosis).
- Rheumatoid nodules.
- RA and its treatments can impair your immune system, putting you at a higher risk of infection.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome may occur if the inflammation of the disease affects the wrists.
- The risk of arthrosclerosis that can lead to a number of cardiovascular diseases.
- The imbalance of fat and lean mass, leading to abnormal body composition.
- In a few cases, RA causes lung disease and even lymphoma (a group of blood cancers affecting immune system).
The systemic inflammation of the disease is frustrating enough on its own. It is relatively more difficult to treat than osteoarthritis, another common form of arthritis.
The bad news, people with RA are at high risk of developing another autoimmune disorder. For example, it can increase the risk of Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that can reduce the amount of moisture in the mouth and eyes.
Sjogren’s syndrome is autoimmune disease in which the body immune system attacks glands in the mouth and eyes. These glands secrete fluid to keep your mouth and eyes moist. If they don’t work as well as usual, you may have a dry mouth and dry eyes. Other symptoms include:
- Dry skin or skin rashes.
- Dryness in other parts of the body may also occur, such as around the genital area.
- Changes in salivary glands (swollen glands).
- Fatigue that is difficult to relieve.
- Dry cough (persistent).
- Joint problems (swelling, stiffness, and pain).
This syndrome can be classified into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary means it develops by itself or it has nothing to do with any other conditions. And it’s called secondary when it develops in combination with another condition, such as RA.
About fifty percent of patients with RA experience Sjogren’s syndrome. Other risk factors of Sjogren’s syndrome are as follows:
- Another rheumatic disease, such as lupus.
- Age! The risk of developing Sjogren’s syndrome increases with age, especially after the age of 40.
- Likewise, this syndrome affects more women than men.
It’s not clear yet why and how rheumatoid arthritis causes dry mouth, dry skin, dry eyes, or other additional symptoms that may signal Sjogren’s syndrome. But there are some explanations – some are outlined below: