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Definition

What is Sjogren’s syndrome?

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that commonly affects salivary and lacrimal glands, which help the body create moisture in the eyes and mouth, in the form of saliva and tears. In a person with Sjogren’s syndrome, the body can not function to produce enough moisture.

How common is Sjogren’s syndrome?

Although anyone can develop Sjogren’s syndrome at any age, doctors found that most patients are older than 40. The condition is much more common in women.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

 

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome?

Typically, there are two main signs and symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:

  • Dry eyes

Your eyes may burn, itch or feel gritty as if there’s sand in them.

  • Dry mouth

Your mouth may feel like it’s full of cotton, making it difficult to swallow or speak.

Additionally, some people with Sjogren’s syndrome also experience one or more of the following:

  • Joint pain, swelling and stiffness
  • Swollen salivary glands, particularly the set located behind your jaw and in front of your ears
  • Skin rashes or dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Persistent dry cough

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Sjogren’s syndrome?

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder which means that your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own cells and tissues.

Unfortunately, scientists aren’t sure why some people develop Sjogren’s syndrome and others don’t. Certain genes put people at higher risk of the disorder, but it appears that a triggering mechanism, such as infection with a particular virus or strain of bacteria, is also necessary.

In Sjogren’s syndrome, your immune system first targets the moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth. But it can also damage other parts of your body, such as your:

  • Joints
  • Thyroid
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Skin
  • Nerves

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Sjogren’s syndrome?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Age

Sjogren’s syndrome is usually diagnosed in people older than 40.

  • Sex

Women are much more likely to have Sjogren’s syndrome.

  • Rheumatic disease

It’s common for people who have Sjogren’s syndrome to also have a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

 

How is Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor.

Some typical tests that may be ordered include:

Blood tests

Your doctor may order blood tests to check for:

  • Levels of different types of blood cells
  • Presence of antibodies common in Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Evidence of inflammatory conditions
  • Indications of problems with your liver and kidneys

Eye tests

Your doctor can measure the dryness of your eyes with a test called a Schirmer tear test. In this test, a small piece of filter paper is placed under your lower eyelid to measure your tear production.

Imaging

Certain imaging tests can check the function of your salivary glands.

Biopsy

Your doctor may also want to do a lip biopsy to detect the presence of clusters of inflammatory cells, which can indicate Sjogren’s syndrome.

How is Sjogren’s syndrome treated?

Some treatment options may be recommended by your doctor include:

Medications

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest medications that:

  • Increase production of saliva

Drugs such as pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac) can increase the production of saliva, and sometimes tears. Side effects may include sweating, abdominal pain, flushing and increased urination.

  • Address specific complications

If you develop arthritis symptoms, you may benefit from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other arthritis medications. Prescription eyedrops may be needed if over-the-counter drops aren’t helpful. Yeast infections in the mouth should be treated with antifungal medications.

  • Treat systemwide symptoms

Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), a drug designed to treat malaria, is often helpful in treating Sjogren’s syndrome. Drugs that suppress the immune system, such as methotrexate, also may be prescribed.

Surgery

To relieve dry eyes, you may consider undergoing a minor surgical procedure to seal the tear ducts that drain tears from your eyes (punctal occlusion)

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Sjogren’s syndrome?

Following these useful tips can help you to reduce the symptom of this condition:

  • Use artificial tears

Artificial tears (in eyedrop form) and eye lubricants (in eyedrop, gel or ointment form) help relieve the discomfort of dry eyes.

  • Increase humidity

Increasing the indoor humidity and reducing your exposure to blowing air may help keep your eyes from getting uncomfortably dry. For example, avoid sitting in front of a fan or air conditioning vent, and wear goggles or protective eyewear when you go outdoors.

  • Increase your fluid intake

Drinking lots of fluids, particularly water, helps to reduce dry mouth.

  • Stimulate saliva flow.

Sugarless gum or hard candies can boost saliva flow. Because Sjogren’s syndrome increases your risk of dental cavities, limit sweets, especially between meals. Lemon juice in water also can help stimulate saliva flow.

  • Try artificial saliva

Saliva replacement products often work better than plain water because they contain a lubricant that helps your mouth stay moist longer.

  • Use nasal saline spray

A nasal saline spray can help moisturize and clear nasal passages so you can breathe freely through your nose. A dry, stuffy nose can increase mouth breathing.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 7, 2017 | Last Modified: July 7, 2017

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