Information about rare diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome is often scarce, and being diagnosed with such a disease can leave patients and their caregivers with more questions than answers.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Sjogren’s syndrome, including its prevalence, inheritance, and treatment options.
What is Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks glands that produce secretions such as tears (lachrymal glands) and saliva (salivary glands). These attacks affect the glands’ ability to secrete fluids, resulting in dry eyes and dry mouth.
What are the types of Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is generally classified into two types — primary and secondary. Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome occurs in people who already have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), scleroderma, or polymyositis. Patients with primary Sjogren’s syndrome do not have another autoimmune disorder.
How do I know if I have Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is characterized by long-lasting dry eyes and dry mouth. Dryness may also be felt in other parts of the body, such as the nose, throat, skin, and vagina. Some people may also experience such rheumatoid symptoms as pain, swelling and redness in the joints, tendons, bones, muscles, and ligaments.
How prevalent is Sjogren’s syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is seen in about 0.1 to 4% of the general population. The exact prevalence rates are difficult to determine, as Sjogren’s most frequent symptoms can be caused by other diseases or conditions.
Women are 10 times more likely to be affected than men, possibly because of differences in hormones between the sexes and how they influence the immune system. Disease symptoms usually appear in mid-life, or people in their 50s and 60s.
Is Sjogren’s syndrome inherited?
Like many other autoimmune diseases, there is no direct evidence that Sjogren’s syndrome is genetically inherited. However, relatives of those with the disease are more likely to develop it.
Is Sjogren’s syndrome contagious?
Environmental factors, and bacterial or viral infections can trigger an autoimmune response. However, Sjogren’s syndrome is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person.
How is Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosed?
It can take, on average, up to seven years to diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome, as its symptoms can be subtle. Clinicians rely on multiple diagnostic tests, including measures of tear and saliva flow, blood tests, and biopsies to confirm the syndrome.
Can Sjogren’s syndrome be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome. Existing therapies address symptoms, and often require the involvement of physicians from multiple specialties. For milder forms of the disease, over-the-counter medications may help prevent drying of the eyes and increase saliva production. More severe forms might require the use of immunosuppressive drugs and/or steroids to ease joint pain.
Where can I get additional information?
We regularly publish articles covering the latest developments in Sjogren’s syndrome news, research, and treatment options on our website. The following organizations also offer information, networking opportunities, and support to Sjogren’s syndrome patients and their caregivers:
Last updated: August 20, 2019
Sjogren’s Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.