What is Sjogren's syndrome?
Sjogren's syndrome is a long-term autoimmune condition which most commonly affects parts of the body that produce fluids, like saliva and tears, but can also affect other parts of the body including nerves and joints.
Sjogren's syndrome is much more prevalent in women and men, and can be developed at any age, but most people are over the age of 40 when they are diagnosed with this condition.
Causes of Sjogren's syndrome
Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune condition, which means that it is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy parts of the body. The exact reason that the immune system stops working properly is not known, but it may be linked to:
- Genetics: Some people may have genes which make an autoimmune condition more likely. People with Sjogren's syndrome may have other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. In these cases, it is known as secondary Sjogren's syndrome.
- Hormones: Sjogren's syndrome is much more common in women than men, so it is thought that the female hormone, oestrogen, may be involved.
Symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome
- dry eyes causing itching, burning or a feeling of grittiness
- dry mouth
- dry skin
- joint or muscle pain, swelling or stiffness
- vaginal dryness
- persistent dry cough
- Swollen salivary glands (between the jaw and ears)
- rashes (especially after exposure to the sun)
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, and they are bothering you or do not go away, make an appointment with your GP.
Treatment for Sjogren's syndrome
There is currently no cure for Sjogren's syndrome, but there are a number of treatments and things you can do to help relieve your symptoms.
- avoid dry, smoky or windy places
- avoid reading, looking at screens or watching TV for a long time
- maintain good oral hygiene
- do not smoke
- do not drink alcohol
- artificial tears - eye drops to maintain your eye's moisture
- saliva substitutes - lozenges, sprays and gels that keep your mouth wet
- medication to increase tear and saliva production
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