Sjogren’s (original Sjögren's) syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. The body’s immune system attacks glands that secrete fluid, such as the tear and saliva glands.
The effects of Sjogren's syndrome can be widespread. Certain glands become inflamed, which reduces the production of tears and saliva, causing the main symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome, which are dry eyes and dry mouth.
In women, who are most commonly affected, the glands that keep the vagina moist can also be affected, leading to vaginal dryness.
Sjogren's syndrome most commonly affects people aged 40-60, with women accounting for about 90% of cases.
Symptoms vary from person to person but may include:
- dry, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes.
- dry mouth.
- difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing.
- a sore or cracked tongue.
- dry or burning throat.
- dry or peeling lips.
- a change in taste or smell.
Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune condition, which means that instead of protecting the body from infection or illness, the immune system reacts abnormally and starts attacking healthy cells and tissue.
In Sjogren's syndrome, the immune system attacks the tear and saliva glands, and other secretory glands throughout the body.
The reasons for this remains unknown, but research suggests that it's triggered by a combination of genetic, environmental and, possibly, hormonal factors.
Some people are thought to be more vulnerable to the syndrome when they're born and that certain events, such an infection, can trigger the problems with the immune system.
Sjogren's syndrome can be either: primary, when the syndrome develops by itself and not as the result of another condition or secondary, and secondary, when the syndrome develops in combination with another autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Risk factors of Sjogren’s syndrome include:
- Age. Sjogren's syndrome is usually diagnosed in people older than 40.
- Sex. It is more common in women.
- Rheumatic disease. It's common for people who have Sjogren's syndrome to also have a rheumatic disease — such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
The most common complications of Sjogren's syndrome involve the eyes and mouth.
- Dental cavities. Because saliva helps protect the teeth from the bacteria that cause cavities, it is more likely to develope cavities if the mouth is dry.
- Yeast infections. People with Sjogren's syndrome are much more likely to develop oral thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth.
- Vision problems. Dry eyes can lead to light sensitivity, blurred vision and corneal ulcers.
Less common complications may affect your:
- Lungs, kidneys or liver. Inflammation may cause pneumonia, bronchitis or other problems in your lungs; may lead to problems with kidney function; and may cause hepatitis or cirrhosis in your liver.
- Lymph nodes. A small percentage of people with Sjogren's syndrome develop cancer of the lymph nodes (lymphoma).
- Nerves. You may develop numbness, tingling and burning in your hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy).
There is no known way of preventing Sjogren's syndrome.