Cotton mouth anyone?

21 04 2013

Sometimes we get thirsty from time to time, especially in the dry Texas Panhandle.  But do you always have a mouth so dry you need to keep a mint or gum in your mouth?  People sometimes call a mouth so dry like that “Cotton mouth.”  We probably all have been that thirsty from time to time for various reasons.  When it occurs all the time though, it could be an indicator of a medical problem.

A person with dry eyes can have a dry mouth since the tear drainage is reduced.  Tears normally flow through a small hole in the nasal corner of the eyelid called the “puncta.”   From there a tube delivers the fluid over to the nasal passages and eventually into the throat.  If you don’t have enough tear volume, it can help dehydrate your mouth.

Several systemic medical problems can cause a severe, chronic dry mouth however:

  • Diabetes is well known for causing extreme thirst all the time.  It is usually accompanied by frequent urination,  increased appetite but losing weight without trying, fatigue and irritability and sudden vision changes, especially after eating.
  • Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, anxiety disorders and depression.   Stroke and Alzheimer’s disease may cause a perception of dry mouth, even though the salivary glands are functioning normally.
  • Medications of all kinds can lead to a chronic dry mouth.
  • Snoring and breathing with your mouth open also can contribute to the problem.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is named after a Swedish doctor, Dr Henrik Sjogren, who in 1933 (pronounced “Show-grin”) observed a triad of symptoms of:   severe dry eyes, extreme dry mouth and arthritis.    Sjogren’s now has a primary form with just dry eyes and a dry mouth and a secondary form with dry eyes, dry mouth and arthritis.

Sjogren’s is an auto-immune disease where the body’s own immune attacks itself.  White blood cells attack the glands that produce moisture in the eyes and mouth.  There are blood tests to help confirm the disease but you may need to see a doctor that specializes in auto-immune diseases, such as a rheumatologist.   There are several treatments but no actual cure for this syndrome so far.

We can help with your chronic dry eyes.    Make an appointment today for a dry eye evaluation and treatment.

For more information about Sjogren’s, visit this link to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation.


Courtesy of Dumas Vision Source, PLLC and Dr Tory W. Moore, Optometric Glaucoma Specialist.    Serving the Dumas, Texas,  Moore County and upper Texas Panhandle area for 22 years.   Call (806) 935-2020 for appointment or visit our optical gallery without an appointment.  Connect on Twitter @eyedocdumas  and like our Facebook business page:  Dumas Vision Source You also can visit our website for more information.  

Tory W. Moore, OD  – “A Hometown Eye Doctor You Know and Can Trust!”