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Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's Syndrome: Introduction

Sjogren's syndrome is a common autoimmune disorder that attacks the mucus and moisture producing glands of the body, such as the glands that produce tears and saliva. In an autoimmune disorder, the body's immune system mistakes healthy tissues as foreign and potentially dangerous invaders into the body and attacks them. This causes inflammation in the moisture producing glands and affects their ability to function normally.

Sjogren's syndrome can affect the glands that produce moisture in the eyes, mouth, throat, nose, airways, skin, digestive system, and the vagina. In some people Sjogren's syndrome can attack organs throughout the body, such as the lungs, kidneys, joints, blood vessels, and the nervous system.

Symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome are due to abnormal dryness of the affected organs. Symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome include dry eye, blurred vision, dry cough, dry mouth, and poor oral and dental health. Other symptoms include skin rashes and joint pain. Serious symptoms and complications can occur with Sjogren's syndrome, including pneumonia. For additional symptoms and more information on complications, refer to symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome.

There are two types of Sjogren's syndrome. Primary Sjogren's syndrome occurs by itself. Secondary Sjogren's syndrome is generally more serious because it occurs along with other autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Secondary Sjogren's syndrome is more likely than primary Sjogren's syndrome to lead to complications. About half of the people with Sjogren's syndrome have primary Sjogren's syndrome, and half have secondary Sjogren's syndrome.

It is not known what exactly causes Sjogren's syndrome. It is believed that Sjogren's syndrome may be triggered by a viral infection or a bacterial infection. There may also be a genetic link to developing Sjogren's syndrome. The vast majority of people with Sjogren's syndrome are women. It generally appears when a person in his or her 40s. Sjogren's syndrome affects all races.

Making a diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Diagnostic testing includes a salivary gland biopsy. In a salivary gland biopsy, one or more of the salivary glands, which produce saliva, are removed. They are then examined under a microscope to look for characteristic white blood cells, which fight infection, that are typical of Sjogren's syndrome.

The eyes and mouth will also be checked for dryness and the severity of dryness with a test that checks for tear production. This also includes an eye examination that can include a variety of tests, such as a visual acuity test to check the sharpness of vision. A visual acuity test involves reading an eye chart located at a specific distance across the room. A visual field test checks sight on the peripheral (side) areas of vision.

Special eye drops may also be used to enlarge the pupil of the eye so that the physician can look directly into the eyes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope and evaluate the health of the retina and optic nerve. Special dyes might be used in the eyes to reveal dry spots and damage to the cornea (corneal abrasion or corneal ulcer).

A neurological exam is performed to evaluate the muscles, nerves and nervous system and such functions as reflexes, sensation and pain, movement, balance, coordination, vision, and hearing. In addition, a thorough dental exam is needed to evaluate the health of the teeth and mouth.

Diagnostic testing may include a blood test that measures the antibody that the body produces in Sjogren's syndrome. Medical testing may include a wide variety of tests, including a rheumatoid factor (RF) test, complete blood test (CBC), C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Other tests are performed to evaluate general health and help to determine the extent of Sjogren's syndrome and if other organs, such as the kidney or lungs are affected. These may include chest X-ray, urinalysis, and thyroid function tests.

It is possible that a diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome can be missed or delayed because symptoms are similar to symptoms of other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. For more information on disease and conditions that can mimic Sjogren's syndrome, refer to misdiagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome.

Treatment for Sjogren's syndrome varies depending on the type and severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and other factors. Sjogren's syndrome cannot be cured, but it can be treated to reduce symptoms and complications. Treatment can include a combination of medication, good oral hygiene, and possibly surgery. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of Sjogren's syndrome. ...more »

Sjogren's Syndrome: Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva. Sjogren's syndrome is also ... more about Sjogren's Syndrome.

Sjogren's Syndrome: Autoimmune disease damaging the eye tear ducts and other glands. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Sjogren's Syndrome is available below.

Sjogren's Syndrome: Symptoms

The types and severity of symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome vary between individuals and the type of Sjogren's syndrome. However, symptoms generally develop slowly. Symptom severity can range from mild to severe, and symptoms can remain constant, get worse, or go into remission in some cases. Secondary Sjogren's syndrome is more likely than primary Sjogren's syndrome to lead ...more symptoms »

Sjogren's Syndrome: Treatments

There is no cure for Sjogren's syndrome, but with early recognition and treatment, it is possible to decrease symptoms and minimize the risk of complications and to live as normal and active a life as possible. Treatment for Sjogren's syndrome varies depending on the type of Sjogren's syndrome, the severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and other ...more treatments »

Sjogren's Syndrome: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome may be delayed or missed because there is no specific test that can detect the disorder. A diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome can be difficult to make and requires numerous tests and evaluations before the diagnosis is reached. Diagnosis is often made by a specialist in immunology called a rheumatologist.

In addition, symptoms are common to many other ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome

Treatments for Sjogren's Syndrome

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Sjogren's Syndrome:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome?

Sjogren's Syndrome: Related Patient Stories

Sjogren's Syndrome: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Sjogren's Syndrome.

Alternative Treatments for Sjogren's Syndrome

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Sjogren's Syndrome may include:

Types of Sjogren's Syndrome

Diagnostic Tests for Sjogren's Syndrome

Test for Sjogren's Syndrome in your own home

Click for Tests
  • Schirmer 1 test - a test of eyelid wetness
  • Schirmer 2 test - a test of nasal wetness
  • Eye stain dye tests
  • Rose bengal
  • Lissamine green
  • more tests...»

Sjogren's Syndrome: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Sjogren's Syndrome:

Causes of Sjogren's Syndrome

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Disease Topics Related To Sjogren's Syndrome

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Sjogren's Syndrome:

Sjogren's Syndrome: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Sjogren's Syndrome: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

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Evidence Based Medicine Research for Sjogren's Syndrome

Medical research articles related to Sjogren's Syndrome include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Sjogren's Syndrome: Animations

Prognosis for Sjogren's Syndrome

Prognosis for Sjogren's Syndrome: Not life threatening. Not life-shortening. Lifelong treatment.

Research about Sjogren's Syndrome

Visit our research pages for current research about Sjogren's Syndrome treatments.

Clinical Trials for Sjogren's Syndrome

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Sjogren's Syndrome include:

Statistics for Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's Syndrome: Broader Related Topics

Sjogren's Syndrome Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

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Article Excerpts about Sjogren's Syndrome

NINDS Sjogren's Syndrome Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva. Sjogren's syndrome is also associated with rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Sjogren's Syndrome Information Page: NINDS)

Questions and Answers About Sjögren's Syndrome: NIAMS (Excerpt)

Sjögren's (SHOW-grins) syndrome is an autoimmune disease--that is, a disease in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells. In Sjögren's syndrome, the immune system targets moisture-producing glands and causes dryness in the mouth and eyes. Other parts of the body can be affected as well, resulting in a wide range of possible symptoms. (Source: excerpt from Questions and Answers About Sjögren's Syndrome: NIAMS)

Connective Tissue Diseases: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Sjögren's syndrome (also called "Sjögren's disease") is a chronic, slowly progressing inability to secrete saliva and tears. It can occur alone or with rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, or systemic lupus erythematosus. Nine out of 10 cases occur in women, most often at or around mid­life. (Source: excerpt from Connective Tissue Diseases: NWHIC)

Aging and Your Eyes -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA (Excerpt)

Dry eyes happen when tear glands don’t make enough tears or make poor quality tears. Dry tears can be uncomfortable, causing itching, burning, or even some loss of vision. Your eye doctor may suggest using a humidifier in the home or special eye drops ("artificial tears"). Surgery may be needed for more serious cases of dry eyes. (Source: excerpt from Aging and Your Eyes -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA)

Definitions of Sjogren's Syndrome:

WHAT: Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS): an eye condition in which there is decreased tear production and inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva. WHY: Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is found in a significant number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. KCS has also been described in systemic lupus erythematosus, polyarteritis nodosa, and scleroderma. KCS plus xerostomia is called the sicca syndrome. The association of the sicca syndrome with rheumatoid arthritis is known as Sjogren's syndrome. HOW: Clinically, patients with KCS may present with itching, burning eyes. They may complain of a dry sensation or of a foreign body sensation of the eyes. The conjunctiva is hyperemic, and thick strands of mucus may cover the eye. With slit lamp examination there is less than 1 mm of tear width at the margins of the upper and lower lids. There is increased debris and mucus strands within the tear film, seen best after blinking. Tiny punctate opacities are seen throughout the corneal surface. The Schirmer tear test (which is most accurately performed without topical anesthesia) shows less than 5 mm of wetting of filter paper at the end of 5 minutes. Finally, rose bengal, which is a water soluble dye specific for devitalized cells and mucin, will stain the dessicated corneal and conjunctival cells a bright red color. REFS: 1) Henkind, P and Gold, DH: Ocular manifestations of rheumatic disorders. Rheumatology 4:13, 1973. 2) Havener, W: Synopsis of ophthamology. St. Louis, C.V. Mosby Company, 1979. 3) Anderson, JR; Whaley, K; Williams, J and Buchanan, WW: A statistical aid to the diagnosis of keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Quart J Med 41:175, 1972. DN19292-9. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Sjogren's Syndrome is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Sjogren's Syndrome, or a subtype of Sjogren's Syndrome, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ophanet, a consortium of European partners, currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000. They list Sjogren's Syndrome as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet


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