By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn
The Dallas-Fort Worth area chapter of the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation will host its annual Walkabout and Autoimmune Disease Health Fair Saturday, May 11 at Grapevine Mills Mall, 3000 Grapevine Mills Pkwy.
Participants are advised to use entrance No. 5, near the AMC Theatre. The health fair and opening festivities will commence at 10 a.m. The walk steps off at 11 a.m., and the health fair will close at noon.
The 2013 honorary Walkabout chairperson is Shannon Boxx, a Sjögren’s patient and a member of the gold-medalist U.S. national women’s soccer team. Tennis champion Venus Williams is the foundation’s awareness ambassador.
This event is much more than a “walk.” It is a national awareness and fundraising event for the SSF. The non-competitive, family fun event focuses on awareness of Sjögren’s Syndrome while helping to raise money to support the SSF’s research and education programs.
My personal journey with autoimmune disease began in 1986 with a different primary diagnosis. Visits to a multitude of specialists, including vascular surgeons, ophthalmologists, internists, cornea specialists, dentists, periodontists, endodontists as well as several rheumatologists ultimately helped me connect the dots and secure the diagnosis of secondary Sjögren’s.
I had never had a cavity or corneal erosion. I noticed that my vision seemed to change frequently, and that I would get fatigued with additional muscular and joint pains. Sjögren’s is a “dry” disease, and even though mucus membranes of the body are extremely dry, my sense of humor became slightly drier.
Along with dryness, Sjögren’s can affect any body organ or system, and affects approximately 4 million Americans. Nine out of 10 Sjögren’s patients are women. The disease can spread throughout the body, causing major organ failure and other serious complications. It is important to seek the counsel of a good, board-certified rheumatologist to decide on an individualized treatment plan.
My good friend, Dr. Scott J. Zashin, is a board-certified rheumatologist who practices at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Zashin, a native of New Jersey, graduated from Dartmouth College and is a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H. He completed residencies in both Internal Medicine and Rheumatology at UTSW.
Zashin graciously accepted my invitation to share his expertise regarding Sjögren’s in this week’s issue:
“Sjögren’s (pronounced show-grens) syndrome is an autoimmune condition. The body’s immune system turns against itself, subsequently destroying the exocrine glands that produce tears, saliva and mucus. The Swedish physician Henrik Sjögren first described the condition in 1933. He reported women whose arthritis was associated with dryness of their eyes and mouth.
“When these symptoms occur without any other rheumatologic condition, it is described as ‘primary’ Sjögren’s syndrome. When it occurs with another rheumatologic condition such as lupus, RA or scleroderma, it is called ‘secondary’ Sjögren’s syndrome.
“The cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is unknown, although scientists believe that genetically predisposed patients may come in contact with a virus or certain bacteria that triggers the immune response. This response inactivates tear and saliva glands. The result is uncomfortably dry eyes and dry mouth.
“People with Sjögren’s often describe eye irritation and grittiness, as if there is sand in their eye. A burning sensation in the mouth or throat is also common, as is a hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing because food sticks to the dry tissue. Enlarged or infected glands that cause pain are also common, as is vaginal dryness among women. Many patients also complain of aching and fatigue.
“Sjögren’s syndrome affects approximately 1 in 2,500 people, but the condition is frequently overlooked. A blood test can help to diagnosis the condition. Most people with Sjögren’s syndrome have at least one antibody in their blood that is a specific marker for the disease. The markers that may be present in Sjögren’s syndrome include:
- “Antibodies to the rheumatoid factor (RF), which are found in RA and Sjögren’s syndrome.
- “Those to the anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), which are found in RA, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus and scleroderma.
- “Those to anti-Sjögren’s syndrome A (anti-SSA or ‘Ro’), which are found in RA, Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus.
- “Those to anti-Sjögren’s syndrome B (anti-SSB or ‘La’), which is diagnostic for primary Sjögren’s syndrome.
“Definitive diagnosis is based on a thorough history and physical examination, as well as the results of the laboratory tests to detect the presence of the antibodies that are characteristic of Sjögren’s syndrome. A biopsy of the minor salivary gland found in the lips may also be performed.
“There is no treatment that is capable of producing normal glandular conditions, so treatment focuses on treating symptoms of dry eyes and mouth. Lubricants, as well as medications that decrease inflammation, stimulate moisture and helps patients feel better.”
Go to the head of the class
High school prom season is almost behind us, and we’ve heard from several folks who are kvelling (with great reason) at their children’s accomplishments.
- Good wishes to Sam Libby, son of Carla and Kevin Libby, who will attend Dartmouth College this fall. Sam is a senior at St. Mark’s School of Texas.
At St. Mark’s, he has been a straight-A student, a National Merit Scholarship finalist, member of the Cum Laude Society, (grades 11-12), an AP Scholar (grade 11) and a member of the National Spanish Honor Society, (grades 10-12).
In addition to the above, Sam was all-state Texas Private School Music Educators Association orchestra violinist in 2012 and 2013, co-captain of the St. Mark’s crew team and state champion in men’s varsity doubles. He is the author of “J-Squad: Emergence,” a 400-page young adult science-fiction novel written during his freshman year.
He is the founder of St. Mark’s Political Forum, a club that discusses political issues. Sam was also a member of the math team all four years, a member of the academic varsity team in grades 10-12. With his schedule full, Sam is a routine Torah reader at Congregation Shearith Israel.
He is the grandson of Betty Stone and the late Morris Stone and the late Frances and Irving Libby.
- Congratulations are due to Adam Genecov, son of Lisa and Jeff Genecov, who will graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University June 16 with a Bachelor of Science in biomechanical engineering.
Adam received the Stanford University Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholarship Award on April 13. This award is given to the top 5 percent of the graduating seniors in the School of Engineering. He plans to pursue his Master of Science in engineering at Stanford.
He is the grandson of Sally Genecov and the late Dr. Ed Genecov of Dallas and Rita and Morris Atlas of McAllen.
Calling all Congregation Shearith Israel bakers
A recent note from Janice Leventhal at Congregation Shearith Israel informed us that this year’s Tikkun Leil Shavout will feature a “Cheesecake Chowdown Contest.” Members are invited to share their “cheesecake know-how.”
Those interested in obtaining more information may contact Janice Leventhal at 2140939-7342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Herzl Hadassah happenings
Rose Biderman dropped us a note to let us know that Herzl Hadassah will welcome Charlotte Decoster, education and public engagement coordinator of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, at 10 a.m. Monday, May 13 in the Aaron Family JCC conference room.
Decoster will present an overview of the museum and its docent-training program. All Hadassah members and guests are invited to this event and future activities. Hadassah greeting cards will be available for purchase.
Wilkens to speak at Holocaust museum May 16
I had a wonderful conversation with Mary Pat Higgins, president/CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.
Mary Pat shared that Carl Wilkens, former American missionary in Rwanda who was in that country with his family during its genocide will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at the museum, 211 N. Record St. in Dallas.
Wilkens remained in Rwanda at his family home during the atrocities. He not only was an eyewitness to the Rwandan genocide, but also, as the only American, he managed to save hundreds of lives. This is certain to be an interesting evening.
JWVA #256 membership brunch coming up
The ladies of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary will have its annual membership drive and brunch Sunday, June 2 at Town Village North, which is sponsoring the brunch.
Featured entertainment will be pianists Terry Teitlebaum (before brunch) and Mimi Guten. A raffle is planned with many great prizes. The membership brunch is by invitation only.
The JWV Auxiliary is a service-oriented group that provides assistance to many throughout our city.
For additional information regarding the organization and an invitation to the brunch, call Lynn Teitlebaum at 972-233-8937. The organization is interested in expanding its membership.
A bundle of boy and joy
I was particularly thrilled to reconnect with former neighbors and TJP friends, Deanna and Jerry Kasten, who shared this picture of their adorable 21-month-old grandson, Eli Kasten, son of Andrew and Reyna Kasten of Plano. Eli is shown holding a stuffed Israeli soldier (doll) sold by ourtown’s Diane Benjamin two years ago.
Eli’s dad, Andrew, has myriad talents, being not only an attorney, but also an actor. Andrew’s most recent appearance was in the Water Tower Theatre’s production of “The Grapes of Wrath.”
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