Sjogren's syndrome is an inflammatory disease. The immune system destroys cells in exocrine glands. It occurs most often in 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 rheumatoid arthritis , scleroderma , or lupus
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The causes of Sjogren's are unknown. Contributing factors may include:
- Viral infections
- Environmental factors
Women and people between the ages of 40-60 years old are at increased risk. Factors that increase your risk for Sjogren's include:
- Other rheumatic or autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus
- Certain genetic markers
Symptoms may include:
- Red, burning, itching, and/or dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of taste and smell
- Dry skin, nose, throat, and/or lungs
- Dental problems
- Swollen salivary glands
- Vaginal dryness
- Skin rashes
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Muscle pain
In some cases, other parts of the body are affected as well. These include:
- Blood vessels
- The nervous system
- Organs such as the lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and thyroid
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. You may also be referred to a dentist for an exam.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Lip biopsy
- Urine tests—to check the protein levels in your urine
Your eyes may be tested. This can be done with:
- Schirmer test to measure tear production
- Slit-lamp examination
Images may also be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
- Chest x-ray.
- Ultrasound of the salivary glands
There is no cure for Sjogren's. No treatment can restore the ability of the glands to produce moisture. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.
You may be given medications to relieve:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Inflammation and swelling
Lifestyle changes may help to relieve symptoms. These include:
- Exercise to relieve stiffness in the joints
- Sipping liquids and sucking on sugar-free candies to relieve dryness
- Good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups
- Using unscented moisturizers to help relieve dry skin
People with severe cases of this syndrome are at increased risk for developing cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and thyroid cancer . 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.
- Kari Kassir, MD
- Reviewed: 12/2015
- Updated: 02/22/2017
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