Sjögren's Syndrome: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the normal function of glands for making moisture. Dryness in the mouth and eye is the typical symptom of the disease. Sjögren’s syndrome is also a rheumatic disorder that can affect your joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. It often accompanies other rheumatic diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Around the whole world, between 400 thousand and 3.1 million adults have Sjögren’s syndrome. It can start at any age, but individuals older than 40 are at higher risk than other age groups. In addition, the disorder is much more common in women. Treatment plans for Sjögren’s syndrome focus on reducing symptoms.

Causes

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. That means, your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own cells and tissues. But the exact cause of the disease is still not known. Risk factors of this condition may include:

  • Age

Sjögren’s syndrome usually occurs in people older than 40.

  • Sex

Women are more likely to develop Sjögren’s syndrome than men.

  • Gene

Certain genes may put people at higher risk of getting the disorder.

  • Environment

Infection with a particular virus or strain of bacteria can also trigger the disease.

Symptoms

The symptoms of the Sjögren’s syndrome vary a lot from person to person. The two main symptoms of syndrome are:

  • Dry mouth that feels chalky or full of cotton, causing trouble in swallowing and speaking
  • Dry eyes, including burning or itching feelings, like full of sand

Other signs and symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome include:

  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Dry skin
  • Low fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs

Diagnosis

Sjögren’s syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms vary from individual to individual and can be similar to those caused by other diseases. Basically, doctors will use a combination of methods to make a diagnosis.

First, your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam to look for typical symptoms. Tests that can help rule out other conditions and pinpoint a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome include:

  • Blood tests to check for presence of antibodies common in Sjögren’s syndrome and signs of inflammation
  • Eye tests

Your doctor can measure the dryness of your eyes with a test called a Schirmer tear test. He or she will place a small piece of filter paper under your lower eyelid to measure your tear production. An ophthalmologist might also examine the surface of your eyes with a magnifying device called a slit lamp. He or she may place drops in your eye that make it easier to see damage to your cornea.

  • Imaging tests, such as sialogram, a special X-ray, to show how much saliva flows into your mouth
  • Biopsy, more specifically, a lip biopsy, to detect the presence of clusters of inflammatory cells

Treatment

Treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome depends on the affected areas. Most people can manage the dry eye and dry mouth of Sjögren’s syndrome by using over-the-counter eyedrops and sipping water more frequently. But some people need medications, or even surgical procedures to live normally.

Medications that may help relieve symptoms include:

Minor surgery to seal the tear ducts that drain tears from your eyes (punctal occlusion) might help relieve your dry eyes. Collagen or silicone plugs are inserted into the ducts to help preserve your tears.


Keyword: Sjögren’s syndrome.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.