Dry mouth, known as xerostomia in medical terminology, is a common disorder characterized by a reduction in or total lack of saliva. The condition is a potential side effect of hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter medications, according to MedlinePlus, and can also result from tobacco use, chemotherapy drugs or radiation treatments to your head or neck. Dry mouth can also be symptomatic of certain diseases and health conditions, some of which affect — or could affect — your body’s second largest vital organ, the liver.
The only organ larger than the liver is skin. It’s responsible for numerous essential regenerative, detoxifying and metabolic functions. Your entire blood supply circulates through your liver several times a day. It typically contains about a pint of blood, or roughly 10 percent of an adult’s total blood volume. The organ neutralizes a wide range of toxins, helps regulate blood glucose and hormone levels and plays a crucial role in the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Your body also uses it to store certain minerals and vitamins, including iron, copper and vitamins A, D and B12. Your liver has a remarkable capacity for regeneration — it maintains proper function by routinely replacing damaged liver tissue with new, healthy tissue.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease most often diagnosed by its two primary symptoms — dry mouth and dry eyes. It occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys salivary and tear glands. A dry nose, vagina or dry skin are other possible symptoms. The syndrome is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, reports the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Affecting between 1 and 4 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, Sjogren’s syndrome often causes sufferers to experience other autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune hepatitis, a condition involving the progressive inflammation of the liver. Sjogren’s syndrome could also affect the kidneys, lungs, pancreas, brain and blood vessels.
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Long-term alcohol abuse resulting in liver damage and impaired liver function is called alcoholic liver disease. Because of the liver’s ability to regenerate new tissue, the disease usually only occurs after years of too much drinking. One of its primary symptoms is dry mouth; other symptoms include increased thirst, abdominal pain or tenderness, weight loss, fatigue and jaundice. Drinking generally makes symptoms like dry mouth worse. Not all heavy drinkers develop the disease, however, and drinking too much without ever having been drunk doesn’t rule out the risk of developing it, reports MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Provided cirrhosis of the liver hasn't yet set in, the liver can usually heal itself once alcohol is no longer consumed.
Cirrhosis of the Liver
As much of 75 percent of your liver’s cells can be surgically removed or destroyed by disease before the organ stops functioning, according to the website Life Extension. However, chronic injury to the liver — resulting from untreated alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis or other liver disorders — can cause scar tissue to form and partially block blood flow through the liver, a condition known as cirrhosis. This condition is the 12th leading cause of death by disease, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, which also states that many people who develop cirrhosis show no early symptoms of the disease. Other common symptoms include nausea, fatigue and weight loss. Complications include sensitivity to medications, jaundice, bruising and fluid retention.
- MedlinePlus: Dry Mouth
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes: Sjogren’s Syndrome Information Page
- Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation: About Sjogren’s Syndrome
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Cirrhosis
- Life Extension: Liver Degenerative Disease
- MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Alcoholic Liver Disease