Sjögren's Syndrome

What is Sjögren's Syndrome?

Sjögren's syndrome is a disorder of the immune system characterized most often by dry eyes and a dry mouth. Since it is an autoimmune disorder, the body attacks its own cells and tissues. It remains unknown why this happens, but researchers believe that a combination of factors causes something to go wrong with the immune system. These factors may be related to heredity, hormones, a viral or bacterial infection, or the nervous system. In the case of Sjögren's syndrome, white blood cells called lymphocytes target, attack and damage the moisture-producing glands. This can lead to problems such as difficulty swallowing, dental cavities and vision problems. Sjögren's syndrome can also result in damage to tissues of the lungs, kidneys and liver.

Sjögren's syndrome that results from a rheumatic condition is classified as secondary Sjögren's syndrome. Primary Sjögren's syndrome occurs by itself.

Although there's no cure for Sjögren's syndrome, treatments can relieve many of the symptoms.

The Connection Between Coeliac and Sjögren's:

  • Both coeliac disease and Sjögren's syndrome have an autoimmune background and a close association.
  • Sjögren's syndrome had a ten times greater incidence in one study compared to non-coeliacs.
  • In another study, the prevalence of coeliac disease amongst patients with Sjögren's syndrome has been found to be between 4.5% and 15%.
  • According to Patinen et al., the co-occurrence of celiac disease and Sjögren's syndrome should be recognized because of its effects on dental and oral mucosal health. In their 1994 study, they suggested that a gluten-free diet treatment might alleviate autoimmune inflammation.
  • On the basis of their findings, Szodoray et al. recommend screening, follow-up, and regular gastrointestinal care of Sjögren's syndrome patients to identify coeliac disease cases and help them to avoid severe malnutrition and intestinal malignancies.

Signs and symptoms
Sjögren's syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms are similar to those caused by other diseases and can vary from person to person. In addition, the side effects of a number of medications can mimic some signs and symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome. Still, typical signs and symptoms of Sjögren's include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Dental cavities
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Enlarged parotid glands - one particular set of your salivary glands, located behind your jaw and in front of your ears
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Change in sense of taste
  • Hoarseness
  • Oral yeast infections, such as candidiasis
  • Irritation and mild bleeding in your nose
  • Skin rashes or dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry cough that doesn't produce sputum
  • Joint pain, swelling and stiffness

Who gets Sjögren's Sydrome?
Although anyone can develop Sjögren's syndrome, it typically occurs in people with one or more known risk factors. These include:

  • It is common for people who have Sjögren's syndrome to also have a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma or polymyositis.
  • Women are nine times as likely as men are to have Sjögren's syndrome.
  • Sjögren's syndrome is usually diagnosed in people older than 40.
  • Having a family history of Sjögren's.

Screening and Diagnosis
Beyond reviewing your medical history, current medications and diet, the doctor can use various tests to diagnose Sjögren's syndrome, such as a blood test, tear test, imaging, biopsy, urine sample and a slit-lamp exam.

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