Patient Articles

Sjögren’s Syndrome

What Is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease. In this disease, the immune system sees parts of your own body as harmful invaders and attacks them. In Sjögren’s syndrome, the immune system attacks all the glands in your body. Glands help produce lubricating fluids in your body.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sjögren’s syndrome causes dry eye, dry mouth, or dry skin. Women, can have vaginal dryness. Some people can have dry nasal passages. Having Sjögren’s syndrome can also make you feel really tired. You may also be more sensitive to changes in temperature. People with Sjögren’s syndrome can also develop skin rashes, arthritis, and problems with lungs or kidneys. Patients with RA very often have Raynaud’s phenomenon. This causes their fingers, and sometimes toes, to turn blue, white, or red after exposure to the cold. In addition to color change, there may be pain, or abnormal sensation.

How Is It Diagnosed?

To find whether you have Sjögren’s syndrome, you will have a physical. During the physical, your doctor looks for symptoms like dry eye and dry mouth. You will also get a blood test. The blood test can show whether you have an autoimmune disease.

Treatment for Dry Eyes

To take care of very dry eyes, you may receive eye drops called artificial tears. You may also get an eye cream like cyclosporine (Restasis®). To help you keep your tears, an eye doctor (ophthalmologists) may block the tear ducts that drain your eyes. If you have uncomfortable deposits (filaments) in your eye, an ophthalmologist can remove them.

Treatment for Dry Mouth

You may have to take medications that help your mouth produce more salvia. Common medications include pilocarpine (Salagen®) and cevimeline (Evoxac®). These must be taken several times each day, because they wash away quickly. Not having enough salvia makes you prone to developing cavities. So, it is important that you get your teeth checked regularly.

For more severe problems with Sjögren’s syndrome, you may also get medicines that help to fix your immune system. Make sure that you see your rheumatologist regularly so that you get the best treatment possible!

Sjögren’s Syndrome Resources

Find out more about Sjögren’s syndrome online at Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation