What Is Sjögren's Syndrome?
Sjögren's syndrome is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the moisture-making glands in the body. The condition primarily affects the glands that are responsible for producing tears and saliva. Although it is a lifelong condition, in most cases, individuals with Sjögren's syndrome lead healthy lives without any complications from the condition.
Types of Sjögren's syndrome
Sjögren's syndrome is categorized into two types: primary and secondary. When Sjögren's syndrome is the only autoimmune condition present, it is diagnosed as primary Sjögren's syndrome. Secondary Sjögren's syndrome is diagnosed when an individual also has at least one other autoimmune disease. Primary Sjögren's is more aggressive and causes more dryness than secondary.
Symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome
Symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome vary from person to person. In some cases, only a few symptoms are experienced; in others, multiple symptoms are present. Although it primarily affects the salivary and tear-producing glands, it can also damage other parts or the body including the thyroid, kidneys, lungs, liver, joints, nerves and skin. Symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Dry mouth
- Dry eyes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen salivary glands
- Skin rash
- Dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Persistent dry cough
- Joint pain
- Inflammation of organs, especially the kidneys or lungs (more rare)
Causes of Sjögren's syndrome
The cause of Sjögren's syndrome is not known. It does seem to have a genetic component, but a triggering factor, such as a bacterial or viral infection, is thought to be required.
Risk factors for developing Sjögren's syndrome
- Over 40 years of age
- A coexisting autoimmune condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus