Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder of the immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth.
The condition often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In Sjogren’s syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth are usually affected first — resulting in decreased tears and saliva.
Doctors classify Sjogren’s syndrome into 2 types;
- Primary – when the syndrome develops by itself and not as the result of another condition
- Secondary – when the syndrome develops in combination with another autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
Normally, the immune system (the body’s defense system) protects the body from infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.
In autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign substances to fight off. This inflammatory response causes the body’s white cells to attack and damage it’s own moisture-producing glands.
The exact cause for the abnormal immune response in Sjogren’s syndrome is unknown. There are four factors that may work together to cause the medical problems;
- Abnormal immune response
- Sex hormones
Certain people may have a genetic or inherited factor that makes them more likely to develop Sjogren’s syndrome.
Sjogren’s syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms vary from person to person and can be similar to those caused by other diseases. Side effects of a number of medications also mimic some signs and symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome.
Test can help rule out other conditions and help pinpoint a diagnosis of sjogren’s syndrome.
- Blood tests
- Eye tests
- Salivary scintigraphy
Treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome depends on the parts of the body affected. Many people manage the dry eyes and dry mouth of Sjogren’s syndrome by using over-the-counter eye drops and sipping water more frequently. But some people need prescription medications, or even surgical procedures.
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