News on the Conference – 2012

This year we had three wonderful speakers. Peggy Chen a Rheumatology Registrar here for a short while from USA  working at the Manukau Superclinic with Dr Rushton.  
A second of Dr Rushton’s colleagues was Dr Zahoor Ahmad  an ENT surgeon  Dr Zahoor also works at the Superclinic and is in private practise.
The last speaker was Simon Dean  Opthalmologist  CMDHB*/ Private Practice Eye Institute. Auckland and Manukau
The thrust of their talks were current concepts and research and where that is likely to go.
Dr Peggy Chen gave an overview of Sjogren’s Syndrome and the treatments currently available.  Also a  reminder of the association  with MALT lymphoma –which has a higher incidence in Sjogren’s,which we should look out for, and she meantioned Ritixomab and other similar advanced drugs which more directly target the immune cells involved in Sjogrens are looking to be useful in Sjogren’s. There are quite a few drugs under study hopefully something will be available to us in NZ in the not too distance future.
Dr Zahoor talked about the impact of the Sjogren’s Syndrome  changes on the nose , salivary glands and throat.
“He showed a video of new non invasive advances in imaging salivary glands and capturing stones which Sjogrens patients are more prone to have-removing these helps salivary flow”
Dr Simon Dean talked about the strucure of the tear film and how the lipid glands are key to the survival of this critical film. Many people have tears but as the lipid (oil) layer that floats on the tears is poor or there is not enough of it, the film breaks down and evaporates very quickly.
Dr Simon Dean also discussed tear duct occlusion and serum based tears (which can be ordered direct from Blood bank by your GP) for those with extremely dry eyes not relieved with tears and ointments. He also reminded us  anti-inflammatory drops can be helpful in some and pilocarpine is also worth trying.

Dr Dean also covered the use of warm (almost hot) cloths to bathe the eyelids. This is warm enough to soften the oils in the Mebomium  glands. Because the oil can set like fat, it has to be warmed to allow it to flow. Sometimes this can restart a better flow rate. Its free and can help.

Break:- If you have been to a Sjogren’s Society meeting, you would know we have a break  between the speakers. This year was a little different as the three speakers  were heard in succession. This meant that there was no speaker after the break so there was a great deal of talking.  Noting the exchanges of addresses, phone numbers and probably recipes,  this was allowed to carry on far longer than usual and it spilled over into what was to be a committee meeting.  This was immensely valuable as the sharing of problems and remedies  is still at the core of what works in the Sjogren’s Society. Maybe we have stumbled onto something.

At the morning tea break Sarah spoke and recalled how Felicity inspired her and set an achievable goal and she felt that she had reaped rich warm rewards.  Many of the members regularly phone Sarah and have developed quiet friendships and she felt very privilaged to have been given very personal knowledge and information and I know Sarah has walked along side many people and her shoes will be hard to fill.
The position of Secretary is far more than just correcting my scribbles, writing receipts and  a few notes.  The real job is to be an ear for the frustrations and hurts. It is there that Felicity and later Sarah’s compassion have shone.  Where would we be without such spirits?

David Zimmerman (Hon President)
(Extract from Dec 2012 Newsletter)