Sjögren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s Syndrome, pronounced “Showgren’s syndrome”, is an autoimmune condition. This means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s healthy tissues.

In Sjögren’s syndrome, this particularly affects the glands that make our tears and saliva leading to symptoms of dry eyes and mouth.

Around half the people who have Sjögren’s syndrome also have some form of arthritis.

Symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome

The hallmark symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome are dry eyes and dry mouth, resulting from reduced tear and saliva production.

However, the condition can affect multiple organ systems throughout the body, leading to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Dry Eyes: Persistent dryness, itching, burning, and sensitivity to light are common symptoms of dry eyes associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.
  • Dry Mouth: Reduced saliva production can cause dryness, soreness, difficulty swallowing and eating foods, and an increased risk of dental decay and gum disease.
  • Fatigue: Many people with Sjögren’s syndrome experience fatigue that can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life.
  • Joint Pain: Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome, often resembling those of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Skin Dryness: Dry skin, rashes, and itching may occur as a result of reduced moisture levels in the skin.
  • Swelling of Glands: around the face and neck.
  • Systemic Symptoms: In some cases, Sjögren’s syndrome can affect other organs and systems in the body, leading to symptoms such as muscle pain, inflammation, and neurological problems

Some people may also experience dryness in other areas of the body (such as the nose, throat, and vagina) and skin.

What causes Sjögren’s Syndrome?

It is not yet known what causes Sjögren’s syndrome. It is believed that it could be caused by genetic factors, hormonal imbalances, enviornment truiggers and/or possible viral infections, which activate the immune system. But, this is not yet confirmed in research.

Diagnosis and Management of Sjögren’s Syndrome

Currently there is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome, but there are ways you can control the symptoms. Most people with the condition are able to live normal lives without any serious complications.

Diagnosing Sjögren’s syndrome can be challenging due to its diverse range of symptoms and overlap with other autoimmune conditions.

A comprehensive medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests are often necessary to confirm a diagnosis. Management of Sjögren’s syndrome focuses on relieving symptoms, preventing complications, and improving quality of life.

See your doctor for treatment and advice

Your doctor will also help you to build your healthcare team:

You may also be referred to a rheumatologist (a specialist in arthritis and inflammatory conditions) for further tests and treatment.
Regular dental care from a dentist is important to help stop dental problems.
People with dry eyes should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor) regularly to check for damage to the eye.

Learn about Sjögren’s Syndrome and Play an Active Role in your Treatment

Not all information you read or hear about is trustworthy so always talk to your healthcare team about treatments you are thinking about trying.

Learn Ways to Manage Symptoms

Most treatments are aimed at relieving symptoms of dry eyes and mouth, and preventing and treating long-term complications such as infection and dental disease. Treatments may include:

  • Regular use of artificial tears and lubricating ointments for the eyes to manage dryness
  • Drinking water and/or using artificial saliva, mouth rinses or sugar free lozenges for mouth dryness
  • Moisturisers for the skin
  • Avoiding dry conditions e.g. drafts from heaters/air conditioners, or dusty or windy weather
  • Medicines prescribed by your doctor (e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids or medicines that work on the immune system). Medicines and arthritis.
Live a Healthy Life

A healthy lifestyle is important for looking after your overall health and wellbeing. This includes staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, stopping smoking if you smoke, and reducing stress. Learn more about ways to stay healthy.

Acknowledge your Feelings and Seek Support

It is natural to feel scared, frustrated, sad and sometimes angry. Be aware of these feelings and get help if they start affecting your daily life. Arthritis and emotional wellbeing

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