Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention


Definition

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:

Salivary Glands

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Causes

The causes of Sjogren's are unknown. Contributing factors may include:

  • Viral infections
  • Environmental factors
  • Heredity
  • Hormones

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk for Sjogren's include:

  • Sex: female
  • Age: 40-60 years old
  • Other rheumatic or autoimmune diseases
  • Certain gene markers

Symptoms

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
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Severe dental cavities caused by dry mouth
  • Oral yeast infections
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue

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

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Lip biopsy

Your eyes may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Schirmer test
  • Slit-lap examination

Images may also be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with a chest x-ray.

Treatment

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.

Treatments include:

Medication

To help relieve dryness:

  • Artificial tears, artificial saliva, and vaginal lubricants
  • Pilocarpine—ocular and oral dryness
  • Cevimeline—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
  • Steroids
  • Methotrexate—a steroid-sparing agent

Lifestyle Measures

  • 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 unscented moisturizers to help relieve dry skin.

This condition is generally benign. However, people with severe cases are at increased risk for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a cancer of the white blood cells. Your doctor will need to monitor you for this.

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing Sjogren's syndrome. The cause is unknown.