What is Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes dry mouth (xerostomia) and dry eyes. It is often associated with an underlying autoimmune disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis. If Sjogren’s syndrome occurs in the absence of an underlying autoimmune disease, it is known as primary Sjogren’s syndrome.

Statistics on Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome occurs widely worldwide. It is one of the most common rheumatological disorders, behind systemic lupus erythematosus.

Risk Factors for Sjogren’s Syndrome

Onset commonly occurs around middle-age, and the female to male ratio is 9:1. Some people are more susceptible to developing Sjogren’s because of their genetic composition. Infections may also play a role in the development of Sjogren’s.

Progression of Sjogren’s Syndrome

The effects of Sjogren’s syndrome may range from mild to severe. Primary Sjogren’s occurs due to an autoimmune process affecting glands such as those producing saliva and tears, although the exact cause is not well understood. Nearly any part of the body may be involved in Sjogren’s, including the eyes, mouth, nervous system, kidneys, lungs and skin.

How is Sjogren’s Syndrome Diagnosed?

Investigations include:

  • Blood tests;
  • Immunology testing;
  • Schirmer tear test: A strip of filter paper is placed on the inside of the lower eyelid; this tests tear production;
  • Salivary gland biopsy: A sample of tissue from a salivary gland is taken and examined under the microscope.

Prognosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome

Treatment will improve symptoms of Sjogren’s, but will not cure the condition. Sjogren’s does not shorten a patient’s lifespan, although it can have considerable impact on quality of life due to infections, ulcers and swallowing problems.

How is Sjogren’s Syndrome Treated?

There is currently no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome. Treatment aims to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Patients are advised to drink plenty of water, and use artificial tears and lozenges as necessary. Skin dryness is treated with moisturisers and vaginal dryness with lubricants. Infections are treated with anti-fungal or antibiotic preparations. Any underlying disease process, such as rheumatoid arthritis also needs to be treated at the same time. Patients are usually treated by a rheumatologist, as well as a dentist and eye specialist.

Sjogren’s Syndrome References

  1. Bowman, Pillemer, Jonsson, et al. Revisiting Sj?n’s syndrome in the new millennium: perspectives on assessment and outcome measures. Rheumatology 2001; 40: 1180-1188.
  2. Dawsons, Smith, Moots et al. Sj?n’s syndrome?time for a new approach. Rheumatology 2000; 39: 234-237.
  3. Francis. Sjogren Syndrome. eMedicine 2004. Available from: [URL Link]
  4. Kumar and Clark. Clinical Medicine, 5th ed. WB Saunders, Toronto (2002).

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