Sjögren’s Syndrome

Sjögren’s Syndrome (pronounced show-grins) is a disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy cells that make tears and saliva. The condition is often accompanied by other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Approximately 400,000 to 3.1 million adults have Sjögren’s Syndrome.

What Causes Sjögren’s Syndrome?

As an autoimmune disorder, Sjögren’s is triggered by your own body’s immune system response. Certain genetic factors make a person more susceptible to developing the disease, but it can also be triggered by infections, like the Epstein-Barr virus.

Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome is characterized by focal lymphocytic infiltration of the lacrimal and salivary glands. Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome occurs in people who already have an autoimmune disorder like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Risk Factors for Developing Sjögren’s Syndrome

Sjögren’s occurs in men and women, and affects people of all ages. However, it occurs far more often in women. It is also more likely to develop in people between the ages of 45 and 55.

Sjögren’s Syndrome Symptoms

The main symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome include:

  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Dry eyes – You may experience burning, itchiness or grittiness
  • Dry mouth – You may experience bad breaths, cracked and bleeding lips, and mouth sores
  • Dry nasal passages
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Burning sensation in the mouth and on the tongue

People with Sjögren’s Syndrome may also experience joint pain, skin rashes, vaginal dryness and fatigue.

Sjögren’s Syndrome Diagnosis

Sjögren’s Syndrome is typically diagnosed by a variety of specialists, including a rheumatologist, ophthalmologist, and dentist. Each specialist can perform careful evaluations of the salivary glands, salivation levels, and tear production and quality.

Some of the tests used in the diagnosis of the disease include:

  • Blood and urine tests to check for certain marker antibodies common in individuals with Sjögren’s Syndrome
  • Schirmer’s Test – Dry eye test
  • Dental Test – Salivary flow test and salivary gland biospy
  • Ultrasonography of major salivary glands

Evaluations for subjective symptoms, like the feeling of foreign bodies in the eye, are also conducted for a successful diagnosis.

Sjögren’s Syndrome Treatment

  • Sugar-free candy or gum to relieve dry mouth
  • Artificial tears to relieve symptoms of dry eyes
  • Drinking more water
  • Petroleum jelly or lip balms for dry, cracked lips
  • NSAIDs – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve joint pain caused by Sjögren’s Syndrome

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