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Sjogren Syndrome (cont.)

Sjögren's Syndrome Symptoms and Signs

The defining symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome are dry eyes (xerophthalmia) and dry mouth (xerostomia). Other areas can be dry as well, such as the inside of the nose, the skin, the airways of the lungs, and the vagina. These symptoms often are referred to as the sicca (dryness) complex.

A dry mouth can cause

  • difficulty chewing or swallowing;
  • inability to eat dry foods, such as crackers, that stick on the roof the mouth;
  • cracked or sore tongue, or tongue sticking to the roof of the mouth;
  • dry, burning throat that leads to a dry cough;
  • awakening at night with the need for a drink of water;
  • difficulty speaking continuously;
  • hoarseness;
  • high incidence of dental decay and periodontal disease;
  • change in the sense of taste;
  • difficulty wearing dentures;
  • cracks and redness in the corners of the mouth.

Dry eyes can cause

  • red, itchy, or painful eyes;
  • gritty, scratchy, burning, or sandy sensation in the eyes;
  • eyes matted and stuck closed on awakening;
  • blurry vision;
  • sensitivity to bright light that makes reading or watching television difficult;
  • damage to the cornea, the dome over the colored portion (iris) of the eye.

Almost every system of the body can be affected. Symptoms depend on which areas are affected and may include any of the following:

Symptoms are mild in most people but can be very severe in others. Symptoms can vary over time and may improve, worsen, or even go away completely for periods of time.

Dry eyes and mouth do not always mean Sjögren's syndrome. The symptoms are common and can be caused by other medical disorders, by some medications, and by anxiety. It is important to consider other diseases that produce similar symptoms. Dryness also may be a result of normal changes in glands and tissues that occur with aging, previous radiation to the head and neck, lymphoma, sarcoidosis, hepatitis C, human immune deficiency virus, human T-cell leukemia virus-1 infection, cancer, inflammatory disease, infections, and medications.

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