Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s own immune system attacks its own cells and tissues by mistake. In this case, it attacks the glands that produce moisture. It commonly causes dry skin, dry eyes, and dry mouth.
There are 2 types of Sjögren syndrome:
In Sjögren syndrome, the body’s white blood cells fight the glands that produce your body’s moisture. It is an autoimmune disorder.
Sjögren syndrome is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in the U.S. It affects women more often than men. About 50% of the time people will have Sjögren syndrome in addition to another autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.
Symptoms of Sjögren syndrome can range from mild to severe—from discomfort to debilitating symptoms that can affect your overall quality of life. The 2 most common symptoms of Sjögren syndrome are dry eyes and dry mouth. From there, the disease can evolve into symptoms that affect the entire body.
Symptoms can include:
Sjögren syndrome is often hard to diagnose. That’s because the symptoms can overlap or look like those of other conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or even multiple sclerosis.
Specialists called rheumatologists use a point-based test to figure out if your symptoms might be related to Sjögren syndrome. The higher number of points you have, the more likely it is that you have the disease.
Along with physical symptoms, other tests that can help identify Sjögren syndrome include blood tests, eye tests and dental tests. Some of those tests include:
There is no cure for Sjögren syndrome, but treatments can help relieve symptoms. The key is to work with a rheumatologist who can help you manage symptoms.
Common eye and mouth symptoms can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) eye and mouth drops. Your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe stronger formulas if OTC versions don’t help.
If your symptoms from Sjögren syndrome affect other areas of the body, you might find relief from some of the immunosuppressive medicines that are used to treat other autoimmune disorders. Pain medicine might be needed, too, depending on your symptoms.
There are treatments to help with dry eyes, dry mouth, and pain. But changing your diet can also play a role in easing Sjögren syndrome symptoms. For example, it may be helpful to avoid alcohol and foods that are spicy, hard, crunchy, or acidic. All of these tend to make symptoms worse. Smooth, soft, and creamy foods like soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes are often good choices. Some people with Sjögren syndrome also have celiac disease and need to avoid gluten as well.
Experts think that omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve dry eye symptoms. Clinical trials on using supplements are underway.
The Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation also suggests that you:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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