What Is Sjogren's Syndrome?

Dry Eyes and Dry Mouth Are Primary Symptoms

Male Doctor Consults with Female Patient
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Sjogren's syndrome is a condition which is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Awareness and recognition of Sjogren's syndrome is important.

Experts believe 1 to 4 million people have the disease. Of this group, 90% are women. Sjogren's syndrome can occur at any age, but it usually is diagnosed after age 40 and can affect people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Sjogren's syndrome is rare in children, but it can occur.

Many women have the disease but do not recognize the symptoms which are similar to those of other conditions including menopause.

Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome

It has been suggested that many more people suffer with Sjogren's syndrome than have been diagnosed. Sjogren's syndrome is considered to be:

Abnormal production of autoantibodies in the blood which turn against various tissues in the body cause the disease. Inflammation in the glands of the body results from this abnormality.

Sjogren's syndrome is characterized by:

A survey done by Bruskin/Goldring Research indicated that while three of four women over 35 years old suffer at least two of the possible symptoms associated with Sjogren's syndrome, over half of these women do not bring it to the attention of their physician, choosing instead to ignore the problem.

Primary Vs. Secondary Sjogren's Syndrome

When only gland inflammation and resulting dry eyes and mouth are involved the disease is known as primary Sjogren's syndrome. There can also be extraglandular problems associated with Sjogren's syndrome which may include:

  • enlarged lymph nodes
  • vasculitis
  • kidney, nerve, or muscle disease

The disease is known as secondary Sjogren's syndrome when the gland inflammation exists in combination with another connective tissue disease or autoimmune disease such as:

Diagnosis of Sjogren's Syndrome

The diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome is based largely on the detection of dry eyes and mouth. Helpful diagnostic tools that serve in making the diagnosis include:

  • Schirmer's test for dry eyes
  • radiologic salivary scans
  • salivary flow testing
  • biopsy of salivary glands
  • blood tests

Treatment of Sjogren's Syndrome

Treatment of Sjogren's syndrome is different for each person, depending on what parts of the body are affected. Although there is no cure for Sjogren's syndrome, mouthwashes, saliva substitutes, sprays, gels, and gum can relieve oral symptoms. Medications and drug treatment options for dry mouth associated with Sjogren's syndrome may include saliva and mucus stimulating drugs such as:

  • Salagen (Pilocarpine hydrochloride)
  • Evoxac (Cevimeline HCI)

Artificial tears and eye ointments can help relieve chronic dry eyes. Medications and drug treatment options for dry eye associated with Sjogren's syndrome may include:

  • Restasis (Cyclosporine Opthalmalic Emulsion)
  • Hydroxypropyl Cellulose (Eye Drops & Pellets)

Extraglandular problems, such as joint pain or muscle pain involvement, are often treated with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Lung, kidney, blood vessel, or nervous system problems may be treated with:

A person suffering with symptoms which may be due to Sjogren's syndrome must be aware of the need for medical assessment and the treatments available. Ignoring Sjogren's syndrome symptoms prolongs the suffering.

Awareness leads to available help.


Questions and Answers About Sjogren's Syndrome, NIAMS, June 2013.

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