Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder of your immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth.
The condition often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In Sjogren’s syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth are usually affected first — resulting in decreased tears and saliva.
Although you can develop Sjogren’s syndrome at any age, most people are older than 40 at the time of diagnosis. The condition is much more common in women. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s
The two main symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are:
- Dry eyes. Your eyes might burn, itch or feel gritty — as if there’s sand in them.
- Dry mouth. Your mouth might feel like it’s full of cotton, making it difficult to swallow or speak.
- Joint pain, swelling and stiffness
- Swollen salivary glands — particularly the set located behind your jaw and in front of your ears
- Skin rashes or dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Prolonged fatigue
Causes of Sjogren’s
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. Your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own cells and tissues.
Scientists aren’t certain why some people develop Sjogren’s syndrome. Certain genes put people at higher risk of the disorder, but it appears that a triggering mechanism.
Diagnosis of Sjogren’s
Sjogren’s syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms vary from person to person and can be similar to those caused by other diseases. .
Blood tests for Sjogren’s
Your doctor might order blood tests to check for:
- Presence of antibodies common in Sjogren’s syndrome
- Evidence of inflammatory conditions
Eye tests for Sjogren’s
Your doctor can measure the dryness of your eyes with a test called a Schirmer tear test. A small piece of filter paper is placed under your lower eyelid to measure your tear production.
A doctor specializing in the treatment of eye disorders (ophthalmologist) might also examine the surface of your eyes with a magnifying device called a slit lamp. He or she may place drops in your eye that make it easier to see damage to your cornea.
Imaging for Sjogren’s
Certain imaging tests can check the function of your salivary glands.
- Sialogram. This special X-ray can detect dye that’s injected into the salivary glands in front of your ears. This procedure shows how much saliva flows into your mouth.
- Salivary scintigraphy. This nuclear medicine test involves the injection into a vein of a radioactive isotope, which is tracked over an hour to see how quickly it arrives in all your salivary glands.
Biopsy for Sjogren’s
Your doctor might also do a lip biopsy to detect the presence of clusters of inflammatory cells, which can indicate Sjogren’s syndrome. For this test, a sliver of tissue is removed from salivary glands in your lip and examined under a microscope
Treatment for Sjogren’s
Treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome depends on the parts of the body affected. Many people manage the dry eye and dry mouth of Sjogren’s syndrome by using over-the-counter eyedrops and sipping water more frequently. But some people need prescription medications, or even surgical procedures.
Medications for Sjogren’s
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might suggest medications that:
- Decrease eye inflammation. Prescription eyedrops such as cyclosporine (Restasis) or lifitegrast (Xiidra) may be recommended by your eye doctor if you have moderate to severe dry eyes.
- Increase production of saliva. Drugs such as pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac) can increase the production of saliva, and sometimes tears. Side effects can include sweating, abdominal pain, flushing and increased urination