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Sjögren's Syndrome

What is Sjögren's Syndrome?

  • Sjögren's syndrome is a disorder of the moisture-producing glands, such as the tear glands (lacrimal glands) and the salivary glands.
  • These glands become infiltrated with white blood cells (lymphocytes) that are part of our immune system. This causes the glands to produce less moisture, leading to dryness of the eyes and mouth.
  • In some cases, lymphocytes also infiltrate internal organs such as the lungs, the kidneys, the nervous system, the liver, and the intestines.
  • Because these infiltrates can affect multiple organs, they can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
  • Sjögren's syndrome often occurs in people who have other rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, or polymyositis/dermatomyositis. This is described as secondary Sjögren's syndrome.
  • When the syndrome occurs without another rheumatic disorder, it is called primary Sjögren's syndrome.
  • Sjögren's syndrome affects a small portion of the population of the United States. The condition is found throughout the world and in all ethnic groups.
  • While Sjögren's syndrome can strike anyone, it most often affects middle-aged and elderly women.

Sjögren's Syndrome Causes

The cause of Sjögren's syndrome is not known. The infiltration of moisture-producing glands by lymphocytes is an autoimmune response. This means that the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells. The infiltration of lymphocytes can damage the gland. Precisely what causes this to happen is not known, but it is probably a combination of genetic (inherited) factors and unknown environmental factors.

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Sjögren's Syndrome Treatment

There is no known curefor Sjögren's syndrome, nor is there a treatment to restore secretion of moisture by the glands. For the most part, treatment is designed to help relieve symptoms.

If you have Sjögren's syndrome, several different professionals probably will be involved in your care.

  • Your primary-care providershould always be part of your team.

  • Rheumatologists have the most specific training and experience in Sjögren's syndrome as well as the many disorders often associated with the syndrome.

  • Ophthalmologists can diagnose early problems with the corneaand assess the degree of damage to the eye. If necessary, they also can perform surgery to help treat or prevent eye damage. They can also help exclude other conditions that cause dry eyes (allergies, contact lens irritation).

  • Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) may be needed if a salivary glandbiopsy is necessary to establish a diagnosis. Also, inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) occurs more frequently in patients with Sjögren's syndrome.

  • Dentists provide appropriate oral care to prevent and treat toothdecay and gingivitis.

  • Other subspecialists may be consulted for specific complications of Sjögren's syndrome.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Sjogren Syndrome »

Sjögren syndrome (SS) is characterized by lymphocytic infiltrates in exocrine organs.

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