Every year, May is observed as Lupus Awareness Month to help bring greater attention to this disease and its impact on the lives of millions. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. Lupus causes issues in the immune system. Normally our immune systems produce antibodies to fight off infections and anything else, like cancer cells, which it recognizes as abnormal. In Lupus patients, the body cannot always tell the difference between foreign intruders and healthy tissue. As a result, the healthy tissue is attacked.
5 million people around the world are affected by lupus, and 16,000 new cases are found each year. Women of child-bearing age are most commonly affected, although it can affect anyone at any time.
Lupus has a wide range of symptoms, which can make the disease quite difficult to diagnose with certainty. Some symptoms include achy joints, unexplained fever, butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks, hair loss, fluid accumulation and prolonged or extreme fatigue, but not all sufferers have the same symptoms.
Lupus and the Mouth
Ulcers. One of the more obvious symptoms are mouth ulcers. People with lupus can develop red ulcers on the lips, the tongue and the inside of the mouth. These ulcers are surrounded by a white halo, and they may or may not cause irritation. Those experiencing a “flare up” can develop ulcers quite easily.
Dry mouth is often associated with lupus as well, but more commonly caused by the side effects of many medications. When the saliva producing glands are attacked in Lupus they produce less saliva. Lupus can also be associated with dryness from other secreting glands such as the eyes. When all three glands are involved the condition is known as Sjogren’s syndrome – a very unpleasant condition affecting the quality of life. There is no treatment for dry mouth, but the symptoms can be relieved.
Our dentists recommend frequent sips of water, use of specially formulated sugar-free lozenges and lubricating oral rinses. Dry mouth, whatever the cause, puts you at risk of both dental decay and gum disease. If you think you have dry mouth, tell your dentist. They can examine your saliva and the glands and work with your physician if necessary to help diagnose and manage the condition, whatever the cause.
Periodontal Disease. People with lupus are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease than most. Periodontal disease occurs when the bacteria in the mouth change from being relatively healthy and friendly to infectious and unfriendly. These harmful bacteria and their waste products damage the tissues around the teeth and ultimately those tissues are destroyed by the effects of both the bacteria and the Lupus itself. Common symptoms of periodontal disease are red, inflamed bleeding gums, possibly bad breath, and in the advanced form of the disease the gums recede making the teeth look longer. If you have gums that bleed, it is a sign you need to see a dental professional.
If you suffer any of the symptoms described above, you should consult your physician and dentist. Only an extensive evaluation will enable a diagnosis of Lupus. Most symptoms can be relieved easily, so don’t wait and put up with unnecessary discomfort!
If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment give us a call at 855-PHD-CARE or 718-DENTIST.