Sjögren's Syndrome

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects the glands in the body that make moisture, particularly in the mouth, throat, nose, eyes, and skin.

What Is Sjögren's Syndrome?

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune * disorder. It affects the glands in the body that make moisture, causing dryness especially in the mouth, throat, nose, eyes, and skin. Sjögren's syndrome is sometimes linked to rheumatoid arthritis * .

How Common Is Sjögren's Syndrome?

According to the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation, there may be as many as four million people in the United States who have Sjögren's syndrome.

What Are the Causes of Sjögren's Syndrome?

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. People with Sjögren's syndrome have abnormal proteins in their blood. The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is not known. What is known is that the immune system normally produces antibodies * to fight harmful foreign substances called antigens. Researchers think that some antigens, such as bacteria * or viruses * , toxins * , or drugs, damage or cause changes to the body's immune system. This damage confuses the immune system, making it difficult for it to tell the difference between self (the body's tissues) and nonself (foreign substances). This can result in the body attacking its own tissues, which is called an autoimmune response. In the case of Sjδgren's syndrome, the immune system attacks the glands that make tears, saliva, and moisture throughout the body.

There is some evidence that some people may have a genetic * predisposition to an autoimmune disorder. This is seen when there are several members of the same family who have the same or a similar autoimmune disorder. Sjögren's syndrome can occur in people who have other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus * . This type of Sjögren's syndrome is referred to as secondary Sjögren's syndrome.

Who Is at Risk of Sjögren's Syndrome?

Women, especially those over 40 years of age, are more likely to have Sjögren's syndrome than men. Ninety percent of people suffering from Sjögren's syndrome are women.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sjögren's Syndrome?

There are many signs and symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome, but any one person may have only a few of them.

Symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome in the eyes:

Symptoms in the mouth and throat:

Symptoms in the nose:

Overall or systemic symptoms:

How Do Doctors Diagnose Sjögren's Syndrome?

The healthcare provider obtains a complete history by asking questions about specific symptoms and when they started. A physical examination is done to confirm and further explore findings obtained from the health history. Blood and urine samples will be collected for laboratory analysis. Many of the laboratory tests done to diagnose Sjögren's syndrome are also done for other autoimmune disorders.

Some tests done to diagnose Sjögren's syndrome specifically are:

An eye examination is performed to determine tear production. Examination of the mouth will be done to determine the production of saliva and the function of the salivary glands.

How Do Doctors Treat Sjögren's Syndrome?

There is no cure for Sjögren's syndrome. Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms. Treatment for dry eyes includes artificial tears, lubricating ointments, and medications to prevent eye inflammation * . Tiny plugs may be inserted in the tear ducts to prevent tears from draining out of the eyes.

Treatment for Sjögren's syndrome–related problems in the mouth and throat includes using a saliva substitute, using a medicine to produce more saliva, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy, sipping water frequently, and using a petroleum-based lip balm.

Treatment for systemic symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome is as follows:

Can Sjögren's Syndrome Be Prevented?

Sjögren's syndrome cannot be prevented, but early diagnosis and treatment recommendations can relieve the symptoms of the disease.

See also Autoimmune Disorders: Overview • Chronic Illness • Eye Disorders: Overview • Genetic Diseases: Overview • Immune System and Other Body Defenses: Overview • Lupus • Mouth Disorders: Overview • Skin Conditions: Overview


Books and Articles , Inc. Medifocus Guidebook on: Sjogren's Syndrome. CreateSpace Publishing, 2014.

Talal, Norman. Sjögren's Syndrome: Clinical and Immunological Aspects. New York: Springer Publishing. 2013.


American College of Rheumatology. “Sjögren's Syndrome.” . (accessed July 10, 2016).

MedlinePlus. “Sjogren's Syndrome.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. (accessed July 10, 2016).

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “What Is Sjögren's Syndrome?” (accessed July 10, 2016).


American College of Rheumatology. 2200 Lake Blvd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30319. 404-633-3777. Website: (accessed July 10, 2016).

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 1 AMS Cir., Bethesda, MD 20892-3675. Toll-free: 877-22-NIAMS (877-226-4267). Website: (accessed July 10, 2016).

Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation. 6707 Democracy Blvd. Suite 325, Bethesda, MD 20817. Toll-free: 800-475-6473. Website: (accessed July 10, 2016).

* autoimmune disease (aw-toh-ih-MYOON) is a disease in which the body's immune system attacks some of the body's own normal tissues and cells.

* rheumatoid arthritis (ROOmah-toyd ar-THRY-tis) is a chronic disease characterized by painful swelling, stiffness, and deformity of the joints.

* antibodies (AN-tih-bah-dees) are protein molecules produced by the body's immune system to help fight a specific infection caused by a microorganism.

* bacteria (bak-TEER-ee-a) are single-celled microorganisms which typically reproduce by cell division. Some but not all types of bacteria can cause disease in humans. Many types can live in the body without causing harm.

* viruses (VY-rus) is a tiny infectious agent that can cause infectious diseases. A virus can reproduce only within the cell it infects.

* toxin is a substance that causes harm to the body.

* genetic (juh-NEH-tik) refers to heredity and the ways in which genes control the development and maintenance of organisms.

* systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (sis-TEM-ik LOO-pus er-ithem-a-TO-sus), sometimes just called lupus, is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, nervous system, membranes lining body cavities, and other organs.

* parotid glands are salivary glands located in the front of each ear. The parotid glands are the largest of the salivary glands.

* inflammation (in-fla-MAY-shun) is the body's reaction to irritation, infection, or injury that often involves swelling, pain, redness, and warmth.

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.