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Sjögren Syndrome

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2019| Content last modified Jun 2019
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What is Sjögren syndrome?

Sjögren syndrome is a disorder in which your eyes, mouth, and certain other tissues are too dry. This can cause eye problems, swallowing problems, and tooth decay.

  • It’s most common in middle-aged women

  • Symptoms can include uncomfortably dry eyes and mouth or more serious problems, such as a dry windpipe and lungs

  • About 1 out of 3 people with Sjögren syndrome have joint inflammation (arthritis)

  • Sjogren syndrome can affect other organs such as your lungs, kidneys, liver, and nerves

  • Sjögren syndrome may occur with other disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

  • Doctors can’t cure Sjögren syndrome, but treatment can help you feel better

What causes Sjögren syndrome?

Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system normally helps protect you from illness and infection. An autoimmune disease is a disease in which your immune system attacks parts of your own body.

What are the symptoms of Sjögren syndrome?

  • Very dry eyes, which can cause damage to your cornea (the clear area at the front of your eye) and trouble seeing

  • Very dry mouth, which can cause eating and swallowing problems, cavities, and yeast infections in your mouth

  • Larger than usual salivary glands (the glands that make saliva to help you break down food and swallow)

  • Joint inflammation

  • Sometimes, dryness of other mucous membranes such as the vulva, vagina, and trachea (windpipe)

Lymphoma, a type of cancer of white blood cells, is more common among people who have Sjögren syndrome.

How can doctors tell if I have Sjögren syndrome?

Doctors ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. They may do tests, such as:

  • Tests to measure how well your eyes make tears (by placing an absorbent paper strip under your eyelid and seeing how wet it gets)

  • Tests to see images of your salivary glands

  • Sometimes, a biopsy of your salivary glands (taking a small sample to look at under a microscope)

  • Blood tests

How do doctors treat Sjögren syndrome?

There is no cure for Sjögren syndrome. Doctors will treat your symptoms.

For dry eyes:

  • Artificial tears (eye drops that work like real tears to wet the eye) during the day

  • Ointment at night

  • A simple surgery to plug your tear ducts so tears stay in your eyes longer

For dry mouth:

  • Sip drinks

  • Chew sugarless gum

  • Use a saliva substitute mouth rinse

  • Take medicine your doctor prescribes

For your other symptoms:

  • Use lube to make vaginal sex more comfortable

  • Brush your teeth and get regular dental care to prevent cavities

  • Take medicine or use warm compresses to treat painful swelling in salivary glands

  • Have surgery to remove salivary gland stones

  • Take NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen) and rest to treat joint symptoms and pain

If you have other health problems caused by Sjögren syndrome, doctors will treat them.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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