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Sjögren's Syndrome

Condition Basics

What is Sjögren's syndrome?

Sjögren's syndrome (say "SHOH-grins") is a disease in which the immune system attacks the glands that make moisture for the body, such as tears and saliva. The damage keeps the glands from working the way they should and makes your eyes and mouth dry.

The disease may also cause other problems, such as fatigue and pain in the joints. In rare cases, it can damage the lungs, kidneys, and nerves.

Anyone can get Sjögren's, but it's most common in white women who are in their 40s and 50s.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome are very dry eyes and mouth that last for at least 3 months and are not caused by medicines. You may have itching and burning in your eyes. Your mouth may feel very dry, as though it is full of cotton.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she will also ask about any medicines you're taking that could cause dry eyes and mouth. If needed, you may also have tests to:

  • Measure tear flow.
  • Measure saliva.
  • Check for antibodies in your blood.

How is Sjögren's syndrome treated?

Your treatment for Sjögren's syndrome will depend on how the disease affects you. In most cases, treatment will focus on helping you control your symptoms. Treatment may include products to help with dry eyes and mouth, or medicine to relieve pain. Stronger medicines may be recommended if these treatments don't control symptoms.

How can you care for yourself?

There are things you can do to relieve some of the symptoms caused by Sjögren's syndrome. Try using drops or ointments for dry eyes. You can use saliva substitutes for dry mouth, a humidifier for a dry nose, or vaginal lubricants. If you have joint pain and swelling, anti-inflammatory medicines may help.

Credits

Current as of: February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine