About Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren's syndrome is a chronic, slowly progressive, autoimmune disorder that attacks and eventually destroys the cells of the salivary glands that produce saliva and the cells of the lacrimal glands that produce tear. The major clinical features of Sjogren's syndrome are the well-recognized "sicca" (dry) symptoms" that are clinically evident by dry eyes and dry mouth. As the disease progresses over time, however, it can also produce so-called "extraglandular manifestations" that reflect damage to other vital body organs such as the kidneys, lungs, joints, and peripheral nerves. The condition is named after Henry Sjogren, a Swedish eye doctor, who first described the syndrome in 1933.
One of the interesting features of Sjogren's syndrome is that, for reasons that are unknown, it affects women disproportionately as compared to men. In fact, about 90% of people who are diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome are women. The condition is considered rare and has been estimated to affect less than 1% of the general adult population. The mean age of diagnosis is around 50 years. A significant number of women who suffer with Sjogren's syndrome also develop a triad of symptoms consisting of dryness, pain, and fatigue that can contribute to a reduced quality of life.
Two distinct types of Sjogren's syndrome have been identified: primary and secondary. Most patients are diagnosed with the primary form of the syndrome defined as dry eyes and dry mouth that occurs in the absence of another underlying autoimmune disorder. Approximately 30% of patients develop secondary Sjogren's syndrome that is associated with another underlying autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.
Despite extensive past and ongoing research, the cause of primary Sjogren's syndrome is not yet completely understood. Currently, researchers believe that the condition occurs as a result of a combination of factors involving autoimmunity, viral infections, and genetic predisposition to the disease.
Sjogren's syndrome is difficult to diagnose in part because patients present with a wide range of symptoms that can overlap with many other diseases and conditions. Since Sjogren's syndrome is a rare disorder, most healthcare providers see only a few cases over many years of practice so that the diagnosis can easily be missed. The diagnostic evaluation for suspected Sjogren's syndrome typically includes a detailed medical history, physical examination, specific tests to measure saliva and tear production, and laboratory studies to detect Sjogren's autoantibodies.
Curently, there is no known cure for Sjogren's syndrome, although a variety of treatment options are available to manage the bothersome symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth. The primary goals of treatment include: 1) controlling the symptoms; 2) preventing progression of the disease; and 3) improving quality of life. Finding a healthcare provider who has clinical experience with the diagnosis and management of Sjogren's syndrome is crucial for achieving the goals of treatment.
The Medifocus Guidebook on Sjogren’s Syndrome is a unique, comprehensive patient education resource that contains vital information about Sjogren’s Syndrome that you won't find anywhere else in a single resource. The Guidebook will answer many of your questions about this condition that your healthcare provider may not have the time to answer. To learn more about the Guidebook, please click here