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Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease that predominantly affects women and targets the salivary glands (in the mouth) and lacrimal glands (in the eye). The involvement of these two glands results in dry mouth and dry eyes (also known as sicca complex). The damage to salivary glands in Sjogren's syndrome cannot be reversed, but the symptoms can be controlled and, rarely, the disease goes into remission.

There are two forms of Sjogren's syndrome:

  • The primary disease occurs when you experience dry eyes and a dry mouth. Fatigue and joint pain can also accompany the sicca symptoms.
  • The secondary disease occurs when you experience dry eyes, a dry mouth, and another associated autoimmune disease. Sjogren's syndrome may precede lupus by many years; however, it more often occurs late in the course of lupus. Sjogren's syndrome occurs in approximately 1-3% of the general population, but in 20-30% of people with lupus. Rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma can also be associated with Sjogren’s syndrome.

Interactions between environmental contributors such as viruses or stress, in conjunction with genetic susceptibility factors and hormonal effects, are currently believed to result in disease development. Recent data suggest the central role of the type I interferon (IFN) system in the development of many autoimmune disorders, including Sjogren's syndrome.

Sjogren's syndrome is a multifaceted syndrome that is difficult to diagnose, and as a result, it commonly remains either undiagnosed or is diagnosed years after the onset of symptoms. Early recognition is critical to prevent this delay in diagnosis, enable appropriate evaluation, and optimize therapeutic intervention.

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