What is it?
Sjögren’s syndrome is an inflammatory disorder that affects the mucous membranes, causing dry mouth, decreased tear production, and dryness of other body membranes. It usually occurs in women around 50 years old, and the cause is unknown. Sjögren syndrome can occur as a primary disorder or secondary to other well-defined autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), progressive systemic sclerosis (PSS), polymyositis (PM), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Symptoms may include dry and gritty eyes, dry mouth with difficulty chewing and swallowing, decreased sense of taste and smell, joint pain, and swollen glands. There is an increased incidence of lymphoma among patients with this syndrome.
Tests for Sjögren’s syndrome may include:
- Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) (positive)
- Rheumatoid factor (RF) (often positive)
- Antibodies specific to Sjögren’s syndrome (SS): anti-SS-A and SS-B; SS-A is also called Ro, while SS-B is also called La (usually positive). These come under the term ENA (extractable nuclear antigens). Some consider these an absolute requirement for the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome.
Treatment is based on the symptoms. Dry eyes are treated with artificial tears, a tear stimulant, or eye lubricant. A dry mouth may be helped by frequent small drinks of water or chewing gum to stimulate saliva production. Arthritis symptoms are treated with anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin, and other NSAIDs, although rarely immune suppressants similar to those used in RA are needed.