An Introduction to Sjogren's Syndrome

An Introduction to Sjogren's Syndrome

Posted by Kerrie Smyres on 23rd Jul 2014

Sjogren's (pronounced SHOW-grins) syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s white blood cells attack glands that produce moisture. The glands and mucous membrane of the eyes and mouth are usually affected first, which reduces production of tears and saliva. It can also damage other parts of the body, like a person’s joints, thyroid, kidneys, live, lungs, skin and nerves.

Dry eyes and dry mouth are the most well-known symptoms of Sjogren’s, but extreme fatigue and joint pain, swelling and stiffness are also common. Since dry eye is the most frequent cause of photophobia, many people with Sjogren’s also report sensitivity to light. Other symptoms include swollen salivary glands, skin rashes, dry skin, nasal dryness and bleeding, vaginal dryness and persistent cough.

Facts about Sjogren’s:

  • Sjogren’s is considered a systemic disease. It can affect a person’s entire body, most often the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, live pancreas and central nervous system.
  • Some people with Sjogren’s report mild discomfort, while others find their symptoms to be debilitating.
  • A person can develop Sjogren’s at any age, but most people are 40 or older when they are diagnosed.
  • 90% of people with Sjogren’s are women.
  • About 50% of people with Sjogren’s also have another autoimmune disorder, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Diagnosing Sjogren’s can be complicated since many of the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions and disease or even to medication side effects.
  • It takes an average of 4.7 years to receive a diagnosis, according to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation.
  • Genetically, some people have an increased risk of developing Sjogren’s, but scientists believe another factor, like being infected by a certain virus or strain of bacteria, is also required to set the syndrome in motion.
  • Having Sjogren’s increases a person’s chance of developing lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes.

Sjogren’s treatment focuses on symptom management and preventing complications. Treatments include over-the-counter and prescription products for dry eye and dry mouth. Patients whose internal organs are affected by Sjogren’s are sometimes prescribed immunosuppressive medications and other medications are available for treating systemic symptoms.

References

Diseases & Conditions: Sjogren’s Syndrome (Mayo Clinic): http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sjogrens-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20020275

About Sjogren’s Syndrome (Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation): http://www.sjogrens.org/home/about-sjogrens-syndrome

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