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Sjögren’s Syndrome- Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s (“SHOW-grins”) syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. It’s more common in women than men - with a female: male ratio of 9:1.

It mainly affects individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 (with the disease most frequently occurring in people around 50).

It affects glands that secrete fluid - such as your tear and salivary glands (leading to dry eyes and mouth). Other symptoms include fatigue and joint pain - but it can also affect your organs’ function (kidneys, intestines, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, or central nervous system). There is also an increased chance of developing lymphoma.

“Sjögren’s syndrome is more common in women than men - with a female: male ratio of 9:1”


The exact cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is not known. Still, it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors:

  • Genetic factors: are believed to play a role in developing Sjögren’s syndrome. Studies have shown a higher incidence of the disease in families, suggesting that genetic mutations or variations may increase the risk of developing the condition.
  • Viruses: Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and hepatitis C virus have been linked to Sjögren’s syndrome. However, the relationship is not fully understood.
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  • Environmental factors: such as exposure to certain viruses or bacteria, may trigger the immune system to attack the body’s glands.
  • Hormonal factors: also play a role in developing Sjögren’s syndrome. Women are more likely to develop the condition, suggesting that estrogen may play a role. The onset of Sjögren’s syndrome is also commonly associated with menopause when estrogen levels decrease.

Overall, Sjögren’s syndrome is a complex and multifactorial disease whose exact cause is not fully understood.

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“In some cases, lifestyle changes can help with specific symptoms - such as fatigue and gastrointestinal reflux. Over-the-counter products can help with dry eye and mouth symptoms.”

SJÖGREN’S SYNDROME - list of symptoms

  • Including concentration/memory loss, “brain fog”, dysautonomia, peripheral neuropathy, Raynaud’s syndrome and headaches.

  • Dry eyes, corneal ulcerations and infections. Preservative-free eye drops and sprays can help with these symptoms.

  • Including a dry nose, recurrent sinusitis and nosebleeds.

  • A dry mouth with mouth sores, dental decay, difficulty chewing, speech, and dentures. Swollen, painful parotid and salivary glands. Difficulty swallowing, heartburn, reflux and oesophagitis.

  • Recurrent bronchitis, interstitial lung disease, and pneumonia.

  • Joint and muscle pain, including arthritis.

  • Abnormal liver function tests, chronic active autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cholangitis.

  • Stomach upset, gastroparesis, irritable bowel, autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility.

  • Interstitial cystitis, interstitial nephritis including renal tubular acidosis, glomerulonephritis, and autoimmune pancreatitis. Vaginal dryness, vulvodynia, chronic prostatitis, autoimmune pancreatitis Fatigue, vasculitis, lymphoma, dry skin and skin sensitivity to UV light.

  • Treating Sjögren’s syndrome

    In some cases, lifestyle changes can help with specific symptoms - such as fatigue and gastrointestinal reflux. Over-the-counter products can help with dry eye and mouth symptoms.

    No single medicine has been conclusively proven to slow the progression of Sjögren’s syndrome or treat all aspects of the disease. Several different types of medications are used to manage symptoms:

    • Dry eye and dry mouth treatment.
    • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
    • DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs) to modify how the immune system functions.
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    “Most patients will, unfortunately, need prescription medication as their disease progresses - to help manage complications.”

    Diagnosing Sjögren’s syndrome

    There is no single test that confirms the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. Specialist doctors (normally rheumatologists) use several tests to diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome:

    • Blood Tests: looking for Sjorgen antibody markers.
    • Eye Tests: testing tear production and using dyes to examine the eye’s surface for dry spots.
    • Dental Tests: including salivary flows.
    • Medical history, including understanding dry eye and mouth symptoms.
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