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What is Sjögren’s syndrome and how can TCM help | Yi TCM

What is Sjögren’s syndrome and how can TCM help?

15 Feb 2024

By: Lee Hui Min

What is Sjögren's syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation that primarily affects the glands responsible for producing tears and saliva. This inflammation leads to the hallmark symptoms of the condition, which include dry eyes and dry mouth. However, Sjögren’s syndrome can also affect other parts of the body, leading to a variety of symptoms beyond dryness, such as joint pain, fatigue, and organ involvement.

The exact cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. The immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own moisture-producing glands, leading to their dysfunction and the resulting dryness.

How is Sjögren’s syndrome diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and various tests, including blood tests, eye tests, and salivary gland tests. While there is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing complications. This may involve the use of artificial tears and saliva substitutes to alleviate dryness, as well as medications to reduce inflammation and manage other symptoms. It’s important to note that diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome can be challenging due to its varied symptoms and overlap with other autoimmune conditions. A comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals familiar with the condition is essential for an accurate diagnosis. 

Treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome focuses on managing symptoms, preventing complications, and improving quality of life. Since Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder, there is currently no cure, but various treatment options are available to alleviate symptoms. Treatment plans are often individualized based on the specific symptoms and needs of each patient. Some common approaches to managing Sjögren’s syndrome includes the use of Artificial Tears and Eye Lubricants, Saliva Substitutes and Prescription Medications It’s essential for individuals with Sjögren’s syndrome to work closely with healthcare providers, including rheumatologists, ophthalmologists, dentists, and other specialists, to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to their needs. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as staying hydrated, avoiding irritants, and protecting the eyes from dry environments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

How can TCM help with the management of Sjögren’s syndrome?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a unique perspective on health and illness, including autoimmune conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome. In TCM theory, Sjögren’s syndrome would likely be viewed as a manifestation of underlying imbalances in the body’s Qi (vital energy), Yin and Yang energies, and organ systems. Here’s a brief overview of how TCM might approach Sjögren’s syndrome:

Imbalance of Yin and Yang: TCM considers health to be a state of balance between Yin and Yang energies. Sjögren’s syndrome, with its symptoms of dryness, might be seen as an excess of Yang energy leading to the depletion of Yin fluids in the body. Treatment would focus on nourishing Yin to restore balance.

Deficiency of Body Fluids: Dryness is a key characteristic of Sjögren’s syndrome, indicating a deficiency of body fluids. TCM views body fluids as essential for maintaining health and lubricating the body’s tissues. Treatment would aim to tonify the body’s Yin and fluids through herbal medicine, acupuncture, and dietary modifications.

Kidney and Liver Imbalances: In TCM, the Kidney and Liver organ systems are often implicated in conditions involving dryness and autoimmune disorders. Kidney Yin deficiency and Liver Qi stagnation are common patterns seen in Sjögren’s syndrome. Treatment would involve nourishing Kidney Yin and regulating Liver Qi circulation to address these imbalances.

Heat and Inflammation: TCM recognizes the presence of heat and inflammation in autoimmune conditions. Sjögren’s syndrome may be associated with internal heat patterns, which can exacerbate dryness and inflammation. Herbal formulas and acupuncture points aimed at clearing heat and dampness may be used to alleviate symptoms.

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine: Acupuncture and herbal medicine are integral components of TCM treatment. Acupuncture can help regulate the flow of Qi and nourish Yin, while specific herbal formulas may be prescribed to address underlying imbalances and alleviate symptoms associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.

Dietary Recommendations: TCM emphasizes the importance of diet in maintaining health and treating illness. Foods that nourish Yin and fluids, such as soups, stews, and hydrating fruits and vegetables, may be recommended. Avoiding spicy, heating foods and excessive caffeine intake, which can exacerbate dryness and inflammation, may also be advised.

It’s important to note that TCM treatment is highly individualized, and practitioners would assess each patient’s unique pattern of disharmony before prescribing specific treatments. Additionally, TCM is often used as complementary therapy alongside conventional medical treatments for conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome. Patients interested in exploring TCM should consult with a qualified TCM practitioner for a personalized assessment and treatment plan.