Xerostomia in patients on chronic hemodialysis

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Abstract

Xerostomia is the subjective feeling of a dry mouth, which is relatively common in patients on chronic hemodialysis. Xerostomia can be caused by reduced salivary flow secondary to atrophy and fibrosis of the salivary glands, use of certain medications, restriction of fluid intake and old age. In patients undergoing hemodialysis, xerostomia is associated with the following problems: difficulties in chewing, swallowing, tasting and speaking; increased risk of oral disease, including lesions of the mucosa, gingiva and tongue; bacterial and fungal infections, such as candidiasis, dental caries and periodontal disease; interdialytic weight gain resulting from increased fluid intake; and a reduction in quality of life. Unfortunately, no effective treatment exists for xerostomia in patients on chronic hemodialysis. The stimulation of salivary glands by mechanical means (such as chewing gum) or pharmacological agents (such as pilocarpine and angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, the latter alone or in combination with angiotensin-receptor blockers), as well as saliva substitutes, are all ineffective, or effective only in the short term. Xerostomia remains a frustrating symptom for patients on hemodialysis, and further efforts should be made to find an effective treatment for it in the near future.

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