Sjögren's Syndrome

Topic Overview

What is Sjögren's syndrome?

Sjögren's syndrome (say "SHOH-grins") is a disease in which the immune system attacks the glands that make moisture for the body, such as tears and saliva. The damage keeps the glands from working the way they should and makes your eyes and mouth dry.

The disease may also cause other problems, such as fatigue and pain in the joints. In rare cases, it can damage the lungs, kidneys, and nerves.

Anyone can get Sjögren's, but it's most common in white women who are in their 40s and 50s.

What causes Sjögren's syndrome?

Doctors don't know what causes Sjögren's syndrome, but it tends to run in families. It may also occur along with other health problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome are very dry eyes and mouth that last for at least 3 months and are not caused by medicines. You may have itching and burning in your eyes. Your mouth may feel very dry, as though it is full of cotton.

How is Sjögren's syndrome diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she will also ask about any medicines you're taking that could cause dry eyes and mouth. If needed, you may also have tests to:

  • Measure tear flow.
  • Measure saliva.
  • Check for antibodies in your blood.

How is it treated?

Your treatment for Sjögren's syndrome will depend on how the disease affects you over time. In most cases, treatment will focus on helping you control your symptoms.

Your doctor may recommend or prescribe:

  • Artificial teardrops, mouth lubricants, and saliva substitutes to help moisten your eyes, mouth, and throat.
  • Estrogen creams, for vaginal dryness.
  • Steroid medicines to relieve muscle and joint pain.

Stronger medicines may be recommended if these treatments do not control your symptoms.

There are also many things you can do at home to manage symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about Sjögren's syndrome:

Living with Sjögren's syndrome:

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

American College of Rheumatology
Web Address: www.rheumatology.org

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (U.S.)
TDD: (301) 565-2966
Web Address: www.niams.nih.gov

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Jonsson R, et al. (2005). Sjögren's syndrome. In WJ Koopman, LW Moreland, eds., Arthritis and Allied Conditions: A Textbook of Rheumatology, 15th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1681–1705. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  • Ramos-Casals M, et al. (2010). Treatment of primary Sjogren's syndrome. JAMA, 304(4): 452–460.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of March 17, 2014

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