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
The causes of Sjogren's are unknown. Contributing factors may include:
- Viral infections
- Environmental 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 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
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
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.
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.
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
- Methotrexate—a steroid-sparing agent
- 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.
- Reviewer: Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD; Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 05/11/2013 -