Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder concentrated in the lacrimal and salivary glands. Lacrimal glands help create tears, and salivary glands help create saliva. These glands keep the eyes and mouth moist. Sjogren’s syndrome prevents the body from producing adequate moisture, usually resulting in dry mouth and eyes.
If someone only has Sjogren’s syndrome, without any accompanying autoimmune diseases, then that person has primary Sjogren’s syndrome. Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome means that someone has Sjogren’s syndrome in addition to other autoimmune diseases. Sjogren’s syndrome can present with other autoimmune diseases, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The immune system exists to ward off infection. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system begins to attack the body as though it were a foreign infectant. Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that targets the lacrimal and salivary glands. There is no specific cause of Sjogren’s syndrome. Certain genes can increase someone’s chance of developing Sjogren’s syndrome. However, those genes also need an infection to trigger the actual development of Sjogren’s syndrome. That trigger usually comes in the form of an infection from a specific bacteria strain or virus.
The most identifiable and prevalent symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are dry mouth and dry eyes.
Although dry mouth and dry eyes are the main symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome, this autoimmune disease can actually impact the entire body. Other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:
Sjogren’s syndrome can also affect other parts of the body, causing pain or inflammation in the:
As a result of certain Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms, people with the condition are at risk of also developing:
Because the exact cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is unknown, there are limited known risk factors for the autoimmune disease.
The symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome can overlap with other potential diagnoses. A doctor will likely run several different diagnostic tests to parse through which disease best fits the symptoms.
After a review of the patient’s medical history and a physical exam, a doctor will usually conduct blood tests to see if the patient has antibodies specific to Sjogren’s syndrome.
Additionally, a lip biopsy and eye exam test for salivary gland production and eye moisture. A sialogram, or x-ray imaging of the salivary glands, is another step of the Sjogren’s syndrome diagnostic process.
Some supplements and medications have side effects that are similar to symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. A doctor might review medications when trying to form a diagnosis.
Sjogren’s syndrome has no cure, but treatment helps to alleviate its symptoms.
Some medications that might accompany treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome include:
Sjogren’s syndrome is typically associated with one surgical procedure. Punctal occlusion, a minor surgery, can seal the tear ducts. This procedure can provide relief for dry eyes. A surgeon will put collagen or silicone plugs into the ducts for tear preservation.
Sjogren’s syndrome often results in dry eyes and dry mouth. Some lifestyle changes can address dryness in these areas.
Lifestyle changes to help with dry eyes:
Lifestyle changes to help with dry mouth:
Lifestyle changes to boost oral health:
Sjogren’s syndrome can dry out other parts of the body beyond the eyes and mouth. If dry skin is an issue, use a moisturizer after showers and wear gloves to protect sensitive skin while cleaning. Vaginal dryness is a common issue for people with Sjogren’s syndrome. Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers relieve vaginal dryness.
Depending on how symptoms present, someone with Sjogren’s syndrome might see a variety of doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Dry eyes can send someone to the optometrist, while dry mouth might prompt a visit to the dentist. As the disease progresses, a patient with Sjogren’s syndrome might seek out a doctor who specializes in arthritis or inflammation treatment.
Seek the help of medical professionals as soon as irregular symptoms present. Even though there is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, the oversight of a dedicated care team can make treatment more successful. The medication and surgery used to treat Sjogren’s syndrome requires a doctor’s approval.
Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome can be associated with serious health complications. The sooner a patient with this autoimmune disease receives treatment, the sooner a care team can address another potentially life-threatening condition.
With the proper treatment plan, people with Sjogren’s syndrome can usually manage symptoms of the condition. Sjogren’s syndrome does not necessarily impact life expectancy.
Cases of primary Sjogren’s syndrome are manageable. On the other hand, a secondary Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosis can complicate a patient’s outlook. Patients with secondary Sjogren’s syndrome might experience further health problems because they have more than one autoimmune disease.