Sjogren's Syndrome (pronounced show-grin's) is a condition where the body's own immune system attacks glands that secrete fluid, such as the tear and saliva glands, giving symptoms of dry eye and dry mouth as the production of tears and saliva is reduced.
As women are most commonly affected, the glands responsible for keeping the vagina moist can also be affected, leading to vaginal dryness.
Associated symptoms of dry mouth
- tooth decay, leading to an increased risk of tooth loss
- dry cough
- difficulty swallowing and chewing
- hoarse voice
- difficulty speaking
- swollen salivary glands (located between your jaw and your ears)
- repeated fungal infections of your mouth,
Associated symptoms of dry eyes
- a burning or stinging sensation in your eyes
- itchy eyes
- a feeling that there is a piece of sand or gravel in your eyes
- irritated and swollen eyelids
- sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- tired eyes
- a discharge of mucus from your eyes
Sjogren's syndrome is classified as either:
primary Sjogren's syndrome, when the condition develops by itself and not as the result of another condition secondary Sjogren's syndrome, when the condition develops in combination with another autoimmune condition, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
What causes Sjogren's syndrome?
The cause of Sjogren's syndrome remains unknown, but research suggests that it is triggered by a combination of genetic, environmental and possibly hormonal factors.
It is believed that some people are more vulnerable to the condition when they are born and that certain events, such as a viral or bacterial infection, can trigger the problems with the immune system.
Who is affected?
Sjogren's syndrome is a relatively common condition, affecting 3-4% of adults in the UK. It's the second most common autoimmune condition after rheumatoid arthritis. However, the condition remains under recognised and often under treated.
Sjogren's syndrome can develop at any age, but most cases begin in people aged 40-60 years old. Women account for about 90% of cases.
Sjogren's syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because it has similar symptoms to other conditions and there is no single test for it.
Treating Sjogren's syndrome
There is no cure for Sjogren's syndrome, but a number of treatments can help control symptoms. Eye and mouth dryness can usually be controlled with artificial tears and saliva.
Good eye and mouth hygiene are also important, as the chances of infection are increased if you have Sjogren's syndrome. Taking care of your eyes and mouth can help to prevent problems such as corneal ulcers and tooth decay.
For the eyes a combination of therapies are required to relieve the symptoms of dry eyes.
- Intensive eye lubrication
- Plugging the tear duct drainage system to ensure you retain the tears you produce
- Treating any other surface diseases with other modalities such as Lipiflow
Sjogren's syndrome is rarely life-threatening, but it can sometimes lead to complications.
For example, your eyesight could be permanently damaged if the reduced tear production is not treated. Women with Sjogren's syndrome are at a higher risk of having children with lupus or heart abnormalities. This doesn't mean you can't have children, but any pregnancy will be closely monitored for potential problems.
If you have been affected by any of the symptoms mentioned above, please don't hesitate to give us a call.
We have a team of experts on stand-by who are ready to take your call at our Manchester (0161 907 2685) Clinic or our Blackpool (01253 308 031) Clinic.