A Rheumatologist — For Your Dry Mouth And Eyes?

Health & Medical Blog

If you go to your primary care doctor complaining of dry mouth and dry eyes, you may expect them to refer you to an eye doctor, or perhaps even a dentist. But when they recommend that you see a rheumatologist, you might be a bit perplexed. Aren't those the doctors that treat people with rheumatoid arthritis? They are — but that's not all that rheumatologists do. Here's a closer look at this specialty and why a rheumatologist may be the right professional to see for a dry mouth and dry eyes.

What do rheumatologists do?

Rheumatologists do treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but they also treat patients with a whole array of other rheumatic disorders. These conditions are all closely related, and they are caused or perpetuated by the body's own immune system attacking its tissues. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the body primarily attacks the joint tissues. But there are other rheumatic disorders in which the immune system attacks other bodily tissues. One of these conditions is Sjogren's syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the mucous and fluid-producing tissues related to the mouth and eyes. This results in dry eyes and a dry mouth.

How will a rheumatologist diagnose you?

Rheumatologists largely rely on blood tests and symptom analysis to make diagnoses. You'll be asked to give a blood sample, and the rheumatologist will assess that sample for the presence of certain antibodies that indicate a rheumatic disorder. 

The rheumatologist will also talk to you about any symptoms you're experiencing. This can help them narrow down which rheumatic disorder or disorders you are most likely dealing with. If you have dry eyes and a dry mouth, then Sjogren's is likely to blame. But there are patients for whom the dryness caused by rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or another condition. You may have other symptoms that you had no idea were related to your dry mouth and eyes but that are actually connected to a rheumatic condition.

What treatments do rheumatologists recommend?

If your rheumatologist does believe you have Sjogren's or another rheumatic disorder, they will likely prescribe an immune modulator. This is a medication that basically decreases the activity of your immune system so that it stops attacking your body tissues. Your doctor may also recommend some lifestyle changes to keep you more comfortable, especially until the medications start taking effect. For instance, they may recommend sipping water all day to keep your mouth moist and using lubricating eye drops.

If your doctor is recommending that you see a rheumatologist for your dry mouth and dry eyes, don't be alarmed. They truly are the specialists best poised to attack this issue. For more information, contact a clinic like Sarasota Arthritis Center.


12 February 2021

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