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What is Sjögren's syndrome?
Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease characterized by dryness of the mouth and eyes. Autoimmune diseases feature the abnormal production of extra antibodies in the blood that are directed against various tissues of the body. The misdirected immune system in autoimmunity tends to lead to inflammation of tissues. This particular autoimmune illness features inflammation in glands of the body that are responsible for producing tears and saliva. Inflammation of the glands that produce tears (lacrimal glands) leads to decreased water production for tears and dry eyes. Inflammation of the glands that produce the saliva in the mouth (salivary glands, including the parotid glands) leads to decreased saliva production and dry mouth and dry lips.
Sjögren's syndrome with gland inflammation (resulting in dry eyes and mouth, etc.) that is not associated with another connective tissue disease is referred to as primary Sjögren's syndrome. Sjögren's syndrome that is also associated with a connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or scleroderma, is referred to as secondary Sjögren's syndrome. Dryness of eyes and mouth, in patients with or without Sjögren's syndrome, is sometimes referred to as sicca syndrome.