The autoimmune diseases are disorders caused by reaction of an individual’s immune system to the tissues or organs of the person’s own body. Most body parts are affected by these diseases and although the treatments exist to control these symptoms, there are no cures. Some of the autoimmune diseases affect the oral cavity and may have a negative effect on the oral health.
Understanding autoimmune diseases
The purpose of the immune system is to defend the body from the invading microorganisms. When the immune system attacks the own cells and tissues of the body, the auto immune disorders occur. Most of these diseases share common symptoms such as fatigue, low-grade fever and dizziness. As per the Office of Women’s Health, about 23.5 million people in the US are afflicted with at least one autoimmune disease. Women are at greater risk to acquire it than men. Hormones and heredity often play an important role in the onset and symptoms of the diseases. The hormonal changes can cause symptoms to change and sometimes it is for better while sometimes it is for the worse. There are oral manifestations of many autoimmune diseases.
Disease That Affects Saliva
According to Medscape, Sjogren’s syndrome is the second most common autoimmune disease. Around 90% patients are women and about 3% of all women above 50 years are affected by the disease. Some examples of Sjogren’s syndrome are related with the rheumatoid arthritis. This disease attacks the glands leading to dryness of mouth, eyes and other body tissues. People may experience trouble in swallowing and eating. Some patients may have a thick saliva while others may do not produce saliva at all. Both the symptoms will disturb the taste and speech and may cause an increase in the dental cavities. Due to the changes in saliva, the tongue may take on a cobblestone-like appearance. Often patients with this syndrome get a fungal infection called as candidiasis, in the mouth. Frequent dental visits and good oral hygiene are required for minimizing the effects of this disease.
Diseases That Affect the Mouth
The Crohn’s disease involving the entire GI tract usually occurs in the patient’s 20’s and 30’s but may also occur in the later in the 60s and 70s. It affects the oral cavity is about 8 to 29 percent of the patients having this disease. The oral symptoms include ulcers in the mouth, swelling of the gums and lips. These can cause difficulty in eating and it may be the first of the disease’s symptoms to appear.
Systemic lupus erythematosus damages the body parts such as joints, skin and kidneys. Mostly, it develops in young women. But it can affect people in either gender at any age. It causes weight loss, fever and a butterfly rash across the cheeks and the nose. The oral manifestation which is most vital is the mouth ulcers and the sores may not cause pain.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease of the skin affecting about two percent of the population in the US. Typically, it develops in the patients around 20 to 30. The elbows, scalp and knees become affected with scaly white patches. Though psoriasis is not common in the mouth, the oral lesions may occur in the tongue, lips, gums and palate.
Diseases that Affect Swallowing
Hashimoto’s disease is an inflammation of the thyroid and most common disease causing an underactive thyroid. Women are likely to get it than men and often it occurs in middle age. It can cause weakness, facial swelling, sensitivity to cold and fatigue. The throat may swell to such a degree may have difficulty in swallowing.
Scleroderma causes abnormal growth of the connective tissue in the skin and blood vessels and lead to organ failure. It can cause the skin to become thick or cause facial skin to become extremely tight. Patients may have trouble swallowing.
There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases and the number of people with it has been growing. There are many diseases which are difficult to diagnose. Seek a doctor with experience treating types of diseases, if you experience any symptoms and ensure to have frequent dental exams and good oral hygiene to combat and neutralize the negative oral effects of the disease.
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