Saturday, July 12, 2014


I don't normally write about my Sjögren's - it looks like I've only used the Autoimmune woes label once before. I was diagnosed with Sjögren's after I was having an extreme reaction to the apartment I first lived in when I moved to Sydney. I think the problem stemmed from the apartment being towards the back of the building, where the balcony faced the air vents of the building. There was small garden and a few base-level apartment courtyards between the vent and our balcony (and a few stories too), but it meant that regular de-dusting of the apartment was required. My flatmate had previously lived in an apartment at the front of the same building and had had a different issue there - lots of black deposits on her balcony and window edges thanks to the proximity of the Western Distributor meant she could never really open the windows or use the balcony.

After a while I found that I was having near-constant hayfever symptoms, and eventually suffering blood noses. The GP referred me to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist who found I was allergic to dustmites (joy) and have elevated Antinuclear Antibodies. He burnt off a few of the capillaries in my nose and sent me off to a rheumotologist. After a bit more bloodwork I found out about the Sjögren's, which was the reason why I had relatively low tears (which had been noticed by optometrists in the past), a dry mouth (yes, I also have crappy teeth thanks to the reduced saliva), and a dry nose that was prone to bleeding if irritated (dustmites at this stage, but I had also developed an aversion to extreme airconditioning at this point).

The symptoms that affect me the most regularly are the dry eyes and mouth. I like to wear contact lenses when I'm cycling as I enjoy being able to just flick my head around and checking traffic. Doing this with glasses requires a more extreme Beetlejuice style of head-flick (I can't see clearly without my glasses beyond ~20cm), and I can get headlight-double-vision if the lights penetrate my lenses as certain angles. I also prefer to wear contacts when running, but tend to be lazier about this so will occasionally just wear my specs. But I can't wear the contacts for too long as my eyes just become irritated (incidentally my brother hasn't been able to wear contact lenses for almost two years now as he tore one of his corneas removing them one day and it's taken a while to heal - he wears sports goggles now and I still laugh at him when I see him on TV, as do my friends who go to his matches and know he's my little brother).

The dry mouth means that I am constantly thirsty - which means lots of visits to the toilet. It also means that I consciously try to stop drinking water before I go for a run, and perhaps having just a half-glass before I head out. I don't seem to have this problem when cycling, but it may be because my bike rides are longer are because I end up completely encrusted in salt by the time I go home.

Maybe not this salt-encrusted, but there are noticeable white patches on my face, legs and any other sections of exposed skin.
Image from here.

Melbourne has lately been windy, and thus dry. So the nosebleeds have returned. I put up with it for a couple of weeks hoping that the weather would sort itself out before I my nose annoyed me too much, but I gave up the other day. Or gave in - I'm back to sticking sesame oil up my nose, although a version that is sold at pharmacies for this purpose (aka Nozoil). I find it a bit messy to use - the initial bit's fine (sticking it up your nose), but soon after I have little bits of excess oil dripping out of my nose. If I'm especially unlucky, enough of it enters the back of my throat that I am overwhelmed by the taste and I start gagging. I'm worried that one day I will actually throw up, because my teeth are fantastic as they are let's add stomach acid to the mix! Woohoo!


In case you're wondering how I knew it was the apartment that was the problem - I moved out to a new place in Randwick (closer to uni) a little while later and my symptoms cleared up very quickly. My flatmate stayed at the Pyrmont place for another couple of weeks before she moved on overseas, so I would occasionally go back to catch up for dinner or pick up a few things, and in less than 15 minutes I'd have a runny nose and teary eyes.

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