Sjögren's Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

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What are Sjögren's syndrome symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome can involve the glands, as above, but there are also possible effects of the illness involving other organs of the body (extraglandular manifestations).

When the tear gland (lacrimal gland) is inflamed from Sjögren's, the resulting eye dryness can progressively lead to eye irritation, decreased tear production, a "gritty" sensation, eye infection, and serious abrasion of the dome of the eye (cornea). Dry eyes can lead to infections of the eyes and inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis). The condition of having dry eyes is medically referred to as xerophthalmia. When the eyes become inflamed from dryness, it is referred to as keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Inflammation of the salivary glands can lead to mouth dryness, swallowing difficulties, dental decay, cavities, gum disease, mouth sores and swelling, hoarseness or impaired voice, abnormality of taste or loss of taste, dry cough, and stones and/or infection of the parotid gland inside of the cheeks. Dry lips often accompany the mouth dryness. Dry mouth is medically referred to as xerostomia.

Other glands that can become inflamed, though less commonly, in Sjögren's syndrome include those of the lining of the breathing passages (leading to lung infections) and the vagina (sometimes causing pain during intercourse or recurrent vaginal infections).

Extraglandular (outside of the glands) problems in Sjögren's syndrome include fatigue, joint pain or inflammation (arthritis), Raynaud's phenomenon, lung inflammation, lymph node enlargement, and kidney, nerve, joint pain, and muscle disease with muscle pain and weakness. A rare serious complication of Sjögren's syndrome is inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis), which can damage the tissues of the body that are supplied by these vessels.

A common disease that is occasionally associated with Sjögren's syndrome is autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), which can lead to abnormal thyroid hormone levels detected by thyroid blood tests. Heartburn and difficulty swallowing can result from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), another common condition associated with Sjögren's syndrome. A rare and serious disease that is uncommonly associated with Sjögren's syndrome is primary biliary cirrhosis, an autoimmune disease of the liver that leads to scarring of the liver tissue. A small percentage of patients with Sjögren's syndrome develop cancer of the lymph glands (lymphoma). This usually develops only after many years with the illness. Unusual lymph node swelling should be reported to the physician.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/26/2016

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