Masking as 'Menopause': Survey Shows Women Ignore Signs of Sjogren's; Menopause-Like Symptoms Can Signal Serious Autoimmune Disease

Apr 19, 2001, 01:00 ET from Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation

    LOS ANGELES, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey shows that women are
 disregarding or downplaying symptoms of a chronic, potentially debilitating
 autoimmune disease which most often emerges around age 40, but can affect
 women as young as 20.
     Sjogren's syndrome (pronounced "show-grins"), a disease which damages the
 body's moisture-producing glands, is believed to affect more than one million
 U.S. women, many of whom may be undiagnosed.  Left untreated, the disease can
 inhibit the body's ability to produce saliva and tears, making it extremely
 difficult for women to swallow, speak, or cry.  Dry mouth can result in
 rampant tooth decay, mouth lesions and pain, and serious digestive problems.
 The disease also may produce vaginal dryness, joint pain, and headaches, and
 sufferers are at greater risk of developing lymphoma and other types of
 cancers.
     Yet, the results of the survey, conducted by Bruskin Research, released
 today at the first annual meeting of the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, show
 that three out of four women suffer from at least one of these symptoms.  Of
 those having at least two of these symptoms, only half of them sought advice
 from a physician.
     "Ninety percent of the people in the U.S. with Sjogren's syndrome are
 women," said Alexis Stegemann, executive director of the Sjogren's Syndrome
 Foundation.  "Research shows that hundreds of thousands of women may be
 undiagnosed and untreated, and this latest survey shows that many are
 suffering needlessly.  We need to more aggressively inform women that these
 'dryness' symptoms -- often dismissed as normal 'aging' -- may indicate
 Sjogren's and need to be treated."
     The majority of patients diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome are
 post-menopausal women between the ages of 40 and 60.  However, Sjogren's can
 also appear in men, younger women and even children.  Sjogren's can appear in
 two forms: primary (occurring alone) and secondary (in association with a
 connective tissue disease or autoimmune disorder such as lupus or rheumatoid
 arthritis).
     However, because the major symptoms of Sjogren's disease are related to
 dryness, and most confirmed diagnoses are among women between 40 and 60, the
 disease is often confused with signs of menopause.  In fact, the survey
 revealed that physicians often misinterpret patients' concerns as menopause or
 age-related, prompting Sjogren's experts to call for greater awareness of
 symptoms among physicians and primary care health care practitioners.
     "Studies show that Sjogren's patients suffer for an average of six years
 before obtaining an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.  This is
 extremely important to address, because Sjogren's symptoms can have a profound
 impact on a woman's quality of life," said Frederick Vivino, M.D.,
 rheumatologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at Thomas
 Jefferson University, Philadelphia.
     In fact, the survey found that almost one-third of women with dryness
 problems said the symptoms had forced them to limit their participation in
 recreational and social activities, and had a negative impact on their
 romantic relationships.
     While there is no cure for Sjogren's, patients can alleviate their oral
 symptoms with a variety of over-the-counter products such as mouthwashes and
 saliva substitutes.  There are also prescription medications available from a
 doctor that may increase saliva production.  Saliva is a critical component of
 the digestive system and is necessary to protect teeth and gums, help in the
 digestion of food, cleanse the mouth and assist in taste and swallowing.
     The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation is a non-profit organization serving
 patients, families, friends and medical professionals offering education and
 support, and strives to increase awareness and research into more effective
 treatments and a cure.  The Foundation conducted this survey in conjunction
 with MGI PHARMA, INC.  MGI PHARMA is an oncology-focused pharmaceutical
 company that acquires, develops and commercializes proprietary products that
 meet patient needs and build shareholder value.
 
 

SOURCE Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation
    LOS ANGELES, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey shows that women are
 disregarding or downplaying symptoms of a chronic, potentially debilitating
 autoimmune disease which most often emerges around age 40, but can affect
 women as young as 20.
     Sjogren's syndrome (pronounced "show-grins"), a disease which damages the
 body's moisture-producing glands, is believed to affect more than one million
 U.S. women, many of whom may be undiagnosed.  Left untreated, the disease can
 inhibit the body's ability to produce saliva and tears, making it extremely
 difficult for women to swallow, speak, or cry.  Dry mouth can result in
 rampant tooth decay, mouth lesions and pain, and serious digestive problems.
 The disease also may produce vaginal dryness, joint pain, and headaches, and
 sufferers are at greater risk of developing lymphoma and other types of
 cancers.
     Yet, the results of the survey, conducted by Bruskin Research, released
 today at the first annual meeting of the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, show
 that three out of four women suffer from at least one of these symptoms.  Of
 those having at least two of these symptoms, only half of them sought advice
 from a physician.
     "Ninety percent of the people in the U.S. with Sjogren's syndrome are
 women," said Alexis Stegemann, executive director of the Sjogren's Syndrome
 Foundation.  "Research shows that hundreds of thousands of women may be
 undiagnosed and untreated, and this latest survey shows that many are
 suffering needlessly.  We need to more aggressively inform women that these
 'dryness' symptoms -- often dismissed as normal 'aging' -- may indicate
 Sjogren's and need to be treated."
     The majority of patients diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome are
 post-menopausal women between the ages of 40 and 60.  However, Sjogren's can
 also appear in men, younger women and even children.  Sjogren's can appear in
 two forms: primary (occurring alone) and secondary (in association with a
 connective tissue disease or autoimmune disorder such as lupus or rheumatoid
 arthritis).
     However, because the major symptoms of Sjogren's disease are related to
 dryness, and most confirmed diagnoses are among women between 40 and 60, the
 disease is often confused with signs of menopause.  In fact, the survey
 revealed that physicians often misinterpret patients' concerns as menopause or
 age-related, prompting Sjogren's experts to call for greater awareness of
 symptoms among physicians and primary care health care practitioners.
     "Studies show that Sjogren's patients suffer for an average of six years
 before obtaining an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.  This is
 extremely important to address, because Sjogren's symptoms can have a profound
 impact on a woman's quality of life," said Frederick Vivino, M.D.,
 rheumatologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at Thomas
 Jefferson University, Philadelphia.
     In fact, the survey found that almost one-third of women with dryness
 problems said the symptoms had forced them to limit their participation in
 recreational and social activities, and had a negative impact on their
 romantic relationships.
     While there is no cure for Sjogren's, patients can alleviate their oral
 symptoms with a variety of over-the-counter products such as mouthwashes and
 saliva substitutes.  There are also prescription medications available from a
 doctor that may increase saliva production.  Saliva is a critical component of
 the digestive system and is necessary to protect teeth and gums, help in the
 digestion of food, cleanse the mouth and assist in taste and swallowing.
     The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation is a non-profit organization serving
 patients, families, friends and medical professionals offering education and
 support, and strives to increase awareness and research into more effective
 treatments and a cure.  The Foundation conducted this survey in conjunction
 with MGI PHARMA, INC.  MGI PHARMA is an oncology-focused pharmaceutical
 company that acquires, develops and commercializes proprietary products that
 meet patient needs and build shareholder value.
 
 SOURCE  Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation