Feeling thirsty? You may want to talk to your doctor about that

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Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012 8:00 pm

(ARA) - Back pain, headaches and difficulty sleeping are common symptoms many people discuss with their doctors during routine checkups. Yet one symptom many patients overlook is dryness, especially dry mouth. If you think dry mouth isn't serious enough to mention to your doctor, think again.

Are you drinking lots of liquids and yet your mouth still feels dry? Do you have difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing? If so, you could be experiencing dry mouth. While dry mouth may seem manageable on your own, it could be more serious than you think. In many instances, poor oral health can be an indication of a more serious medical condition, like Sjogren's syndrome, which affects as many as 4 million Americans.

Sjogren's is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which a person's immune system attacks and destroys the moisture-producing glands in the body. Often, the condition leaves patients with chronic dry mouth as they experience a decrease in saliva. Many patients also frequently experience a dry or a gritty, sandy feeling in their eyes. Both dry mouth and dry eyes are the hallmark symptoms of Sjogren's. Other symptoms may also include joint pain, fatigue, a change in taste or smell, or tooth decay.

"April is Sjogren's Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to make an appointment to talk to your doctors about dryness," says Steven Taylor, CEO of the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation. "Every doctor will tell you that no symptom is insignificant, so speak up and Defy the Dry by visiting DefytheDry.com for more information about dry mouth and Sjogren's. You can even download dryness screeners to help you assess your dryness symptoms."

Need more motivation to speak up about dry mouth? The average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis of Sjogren's is almost seven years. One reason for the delay may be that patients wait months (and even years) before discussing their symptoms with their doctors. Additionally, patients may not connect their symptoms, like cavities or cracked lips, with dry mouth and many of them may not describe their dry-mouth symptoms thoroughly when they finally do speak to their physicians. If this sounds like you, visit DefytheDry.com to download the Sjogren's symptoms checklist and bring it to your next doctor appointment to help guide you and your physician through a productive and accurate conversation about your symptoms.

"By increasing the conversation around dryness symptoms and Sjogren's syndrome between doctors and patients, we hope to decrease time to diagnosis by 50 percent in the next five years," adds Taylor.

While there is no cure for Sjogren's, treatment options are available to help manage symptoms. For more information on Sjogren's and its symptoms, visit DefytheDry.com.

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