Registration Open for Virtual Sjögren’s Patient Conference

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by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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The Sjögren’s Foundation will host a one-day virtual conference aimed at increasing patients’ understanding and management of symptoms.

The conference will feature Sjögren’s syndrome experts and the focus will be on the nervous system and Sjögren’s, according to a press release,

Scheduled for noon to 4:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 13,  the conference will take place virtually on the Crowdcast platform.

Registration is mandatory and implies the payment of a fee of $40 for members of the Sjögren’s Foundation and $60 for non-members. Registration information is available here.

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The misguided immune response in Sjögren’s syndrome patients often causes neurological problems, including damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral neuropathy), cognitive disorders, or inflammation of the brain membranes (meningitis). In rare cases, patients may develop brain lesions.

Janet Church, Sjögren’s Foundation president and CEO will open the virtual conference. That will be followed by a presentation by Donald Thomas, Jr., MD, a rheumatologist and associate professor of clinical medicine of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

During his talk, scheduled for 12:10 p.m., Thomas will provide practical advice — including tips and tricks — about how patients can get the most out of visits to their doctors and establishing a close partnership with their physician.

The following two sessions will focus on the nervous system involvement in Sjögren’s, particularly problems in cognition and fatigue.

Arun Varadhachary, MD, PhD, a neurology specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, and associate professor at Washington University Physicians, will discuss the involvement of the different arms of the nervous system — central, peripheral, and autonomic — in Sjögren’s syndrome. His talk is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

The central nervous system is the part of the nervous system consisting primarily of the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nerves are those located outside this central location. The autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system that regulates body functions, such as blood pressure and breathing rate, without the need of a conscious effort.

Diving deeper into Sjögren’s-specific neurological symptoms, specifically brain fog and fatigue, and the mechanisms underlying them, will be Fai Ng, MD, PhD, with a talk at 1:55 p.m. Ng is a professor of rheumatology at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

At 2:40 p.m, Church will share the latest news regarding projects underway at the Sjögren’s Foundation, and how the foundation has supported lead programs in research and physician education about Sjögren’s.

The final scientific talk, by Ghaith Noaiseh, MD, a rheumatologist in Kansas City affiliated with University of Kansas Hospital, scheduled at 3 p.m., will discuss peripheral neuropathy, damages to peripheral nerves (those that send the sensory and motor information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body), and Raynaud’s in Sjögren’s syndrome patients.

Raynaud’s phenomenon causes decreased blood supply to the fingers and/or toes.

The conference will close with a talk by Kathy Hammitt, vice-president of scientific and medical affairs at the Sjögren’s Foundation. Hammitt will discuss the lessons to be learned on Sjögren’s dysautonomia — dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system — from people diagnosed with COVID-19.

The virtual conference will end at 4:15 p.m. with a recap and closing remarks session.

All presentations will be available and recorded for registrants to re-watch via Crowdcast up to 60 days after the conference.