Sjogren's syndrome is an inflammatory disease. The immune system destroys cells in exocrine glands. It occurs most often the tear and salivary glands. It is a lifelong condition. There are two types: Primary Sjogren's syndrome—occurs alone
Secondary Sjogren's syndrome—occurs with other rheumatic conditions such as
systemic lupus erythematosus
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The causes of Sjogren's are unknown. Contributing factors may include: Viral infectionsHeredityHormones
Factors that increase your risk for Sjogren's include: Sex: femaleAge: 40-60 years oldOther rheumatic or autoimmune diseases
Symptoms may include: Red, burning, itching, and/or dry eyesDry mouthDifficulty swallowingLoss of taste and smellDry skin, nose, throat, and/or lungsSwollen salivary glandsSevere dental cavities caused by dry mouthOral yeast infectionsVaginal drynessSkin rashesJoint and muscle painFatigue
In some cases, other parts of the body are affected as well. These include: Blood vesselsThe nervous systemOrgans such as the lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and thyroid
Anti Ro antibodies are often present with Sjogren's. These may cross to the baby during pregnancy. In some cases, they can cause neonatal lupus or infant heartblock.
This disease can affect many areas on your body. You may have to see several specialist before a final diagnosis is made. Dry eyes and mouth also increase with age. They can also be caused by medicine. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include: Blood tests—including rheumatoid factor and other tests used to detect and monitor autoimmune diseasesChest x-ray
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, in this case the lungs
—removal of a sample of lip tissue to look for inflammation in the accessory salivary glands located there
Schirmer test—placement of small pieces of paper between the lower eyelid and eyeball to see how much moisture is being producedSlit-lamp examination—a detailed exam of the eye with an adjustable lightUrine test—to check kidney function
There is no cure for Sjogren's. No treatment can restore the ability of the glands to produce moisture. Patients with Sjogren’s have an increased incidence of
. They should be screened aggressively. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.
To help relieve dryness: Artificial tears, artificial saliva, and vaginal lubricantsPilocarpine
—ocular and oral dryness
—requires less frequent dosing than pilocarpine, may cause nausea
To relieve joint and muscle pain: Aspirin
or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
To relieve inflammation / swelling: Plaquenil
—antimalarial drug with anti-inflammatory properties
—a steroid-sparing agent
Mild exercise can help relieve stiffness in the joints.To help relieve dry mouth, sip liquids often and suck on sugar-free candies.Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly. This can help to prevent cavities.Use nonscented moisturizers to help relieve dry skin.
This condition is generally benign. However, people with severe cases are at increased risk for developing
. This is a cancer of the white blood cells. Your doctor will need to monitor you for this.
There are no guidelines for preventing Sjogren's syndrome. The cause is unknown.
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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Available at:
Papas, et al. Successful treatment of dry mouth and dry eye symptoms in Sjogren's syndrome patients with oral pilocarpine: a randomized, placebo-controlled, dose-adjustment study.
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Pertovaara M, Korpela M, Uusitalo H, et al. Clinical follow up study of 87 patients with sicca symptoms (dryness of eyes or mouth, or both).
Ann Rheum Dis.
Ramos-Casals M, Tzioufas AG, Font J. Primary Sjögren's syndrome: new clinical and therapeutic concepts.
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Last reviewed December 2011 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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