Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s (pronounced SHOW-grins) syndrome is a condition that affects your immune system. The most common symptoms are dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and pain in the joints.

This chronic (ongoing) condition often occurs alongside other disorders of the immune system, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Most people who develop Sjogren’s syndrome are over 40 years old when they are diagnosed, although you can develop this condition at any age.

Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome

Some people have only minor symptoms. Others may have symptoms severe enough to affect their daily lives.

The eyes and the mouth are usually the first parts of the body affected in Sjogren’s syndrome. This causes the membranes that produce mucous and the glands that secrete moisture to stop working properly. As a result, your body produces fewer tears and less saliva. This leads to:

  • Dry eyes which give an itching, burning or a gritty sensation.
  • Dry mouth which make it difficult to swallow or speak.

Other symptoms can occur with Sjogren’s syndrome, including:

  • Ongoing, dry cough
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in the joints
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Skin problems, such as dryness or a rash
  • Swollen salivary glands, especially the ones in front of your ears or behind your jaw
  • Vaginal dryness

Causes of Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. With this type of condition, your immune system mistakenly attacks parts of your own body.

The glands and membranes of the eyes and mouth are the first to be attacked by the immune system. However, Sjogren’s syndrome can also damage other parts of the body, such as the blood vessels, digestive organs, joints, kidneys, lungs and nerves.

Doctors are not certain why some people develop Sjogren’s syndrome. Some factors, though, may increase your risk, such as: