All Dried Out

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. I am a 62-year-old female and have a terrible problem with dryness inside and out. My eyes are dry, my vagina is dry, my skin is terrible dry. I am thirsty all the time and drink continually, but it doesn't help. Is there any kind of vitamin or something I could take for this? I have a lung disease. Could this have anything to do with it? My doctor seems to pass it off as nothing. If you can help, thanks.

A. This sounds like the disease Sjogren's syndrome which is an autoimmune disease that damages moisture-producing glands throughout the body. The most characteristic symptom is dryness of all mucous membranes. Other symptoms include chronic lung infections, difficulty with swallowing, and possible problems with liver or kidney disease. A blood test can help make the diagnosis, although a biopsy of a salivary gland may also be necessary.