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What is Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks cells of the exocrine glands. Exocrine glands produce moisture in the body, such as saliva and tears. Accordingly, Sjogren’s syndrome is associated with its primary symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth.
Sjogren’s syndrome can develop on its own or as a complication of another autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Its cause is unknown, but women are more likely to be affected than men.
Symptoms and causes
In addition to the primary symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth, common symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include itchy eyes, mouth sores, nasal dryness, and vaginal dryness. Patients may also experience pain, tingling, loss of taste or smell, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or a cough.
Symptoms vary in severity and duration. The disease most commonly affects older women, and patients may develop Sjogren’s syndrome as a complication of another autoimmune disease. There may be an increased risk of lymphoma for those with Sjogren’s syndrome, so it is important to seek treatment early.
Sjogren’s syndrome has no cure but can usually be effectively managed with treatment. Physicians may utilize eye exams and blood tests to assist in diagnosing this condition. Medicated eye drops can reduce the symptoms of itchiness and dry eyes.
Other medications can increase saliva flow and reduce inflammation. Humidifiers and nasal saline may assist with other symptoms, as can medications which reduce acid reflux. Overall, most patients with Sjogren’s syndrome can live a normal life with access to these treatments.