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 complications of Sjögren's syndrome?

It is not uncommon for people with Sjögren's syndrome to have complications of infections. Infections that are common in these patients include dental infections, eye infections, sinusitis, bronchitis, and vaginitis. Close monitoring and early treatment of these infections are keys to optimal outcomes.

Some people with Sjögren's syndrome can develop inflammation of the parotid gland in the cheeks. This can lead to dryness of the ducts that drain the gland and stones can form that block these drainage tubes. This can be serious and require aggressive antibiotics and surgery.

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.

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.

Another 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.

Is it possible to prevent Sjögren's syndrome?

Because Sjögren's syndrome is felt to be inherited, there is no particular way to prevent developing the disease. However, preventing complications of Sjögren's syndrome, such as infection, eye irritation, etc., can be achieved using the methods described above.

What is the prognosis for patients with Sjögren's syndrome?

With proper attention to eye and oral care, the outlook for patients with Sjögren's syndrome is generally excellent. Eye dryness can lead to serious injury to the eye, particularly the cornea, and this should be avoided by consultation with an eye specialist. Mouth dryness can lead to dental decay and parotid gland infection and parotid stones. Optimal oral hygiene is essential.

The serious complications of primary biliary cirrhosis and lymphoma can dramatically affect prognosis and are monitored for in routine regular office visits.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/26/2016

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