What are the Symptoms of Sicca?

Sicca symptoms refer to a group of symptoms that are associated with dryness, particularly dryness of the mucous membranes, and they are often seen in conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome. The term “sicca” originates from the Latin word for “dry.” These symptoms can affect various parts of the body, particularly the eyes and mouth. Common sicca symptoms include:

  • Xerophthalmia: This refers to dryness and irritation of the eyes, often accompanied by a gritty or burning sensation. It may lead to blurred vision, light sensitivity, and difficulty wearing contact lenses. The medical term for dry eyes is “keratoconjunctivitis sicca.”
  • Xerostomia: This is the medical term for dry mouth and involves a lack of saliva production. It can lead to difficulty swallowing, speaking, or tasting, as well as an increased risk of dental problems like cavities and oral infections.
  • Dry Skin: Dryness and itching of the skin can occur in some individuals with sicca symptoms.
  • Dry Nose: Dryness and irritation of the nasal passages may lead to discomfort, nosebleeds, and difficulty breathing through the nose.
  • Dry Throat and Larynx: Dryness in the throat and larynx can result in hoarseness, a sore throat, or difficulty speaking.

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva. It is a primary cause of sicca symptoms. In addition to affecting the eyes and mouth, Sjögren’s syndrome can also affect other mucous membranes in the body, leading to dryness in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts.

Sicca symptoms can also occur in individuals without Sjögren’s syndrome and may be related to other conditions, medications, or environmental factors. Chronic medication use, radiation therapy, and certain diseases like diabetes and sarcoidosis can contribute to dryness in various parts of the body.

Management of sicca symptoms often involves addressing the underlying cause, if one is identified. For individuals with Sjögren’s syndrome, treatment may focus on relieving dryness and managing autoimmune symptoms. Artificial tears, saliva substitutes, and other supportive measures may be recommended to alleviate dryness and improve quality of life. If someone is experiencing sicca symptoms, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and appropriate management.