Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks glands that produce secretions such as tears and saliva.
Sjogren’s syndrome is classified into two types: primary and secondary. Primary Sjogren’s syndrome does not accompany any other autoimmune disorder and, as such, is easier to manage in comparison. Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome often develops in individuals who have another autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, or polymyositis.
Life expectancy and primary Sjogren’s syndrome
Life expectancy in primary Sjogren’s syndrome is comparable to that of the general population, but it can take up to seven years to correctly diagnose Sjogren’s. Although life expectancy is not typically affected, patients’ quality of life is, and considerably. Secretory glands don’t work, resulting in dryness in the eyes, mouth, throat, and other organs, along with complications such as pain, fatigue, and digestive problems.
The severity of symptoms can be similar in both primary and secondary Sjogren’s patients, and organ involvement needs to be monitored carefully. In some cases, primary Sjogren’s syndrome may be associated with several extra-glandular manifestations (EGMs), such as polyarthritis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, vasculitis, and cryoglobulinemia that can affect life expectancy.
Improving quality of life in primary Sjogren’s
Symptoms of primary Sjogren’s syndrome can largely be managed. For example, dryness in the mouth and throat can ease by using saliva substitutes or salivary stimulants, by keeping well hydrated, and by avoiding foods that promote dryness and stickiness.
Dry skin can be tackled by using moisturizers, along with chemicals such as urea or glycerin. Bathing with warm water is recommended and moisturizers need to be applied while the skin is still wet.
Treatment needs to be tailored to the individual according to disease activity, and whether extraglandular manifestations are present and to what degree.
Life expectancy and secondary Sjogren’s syndrome
Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome occurs when other primary autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are known to be present. Life expectancy in people with secondary Sjogren’s syndrome depends on the nature of the primary disease.
For example, secondary Sjogren’s syndrome patients who already have rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of heart disease, while those with lupus are at risk of kidney problems and neurological disorders.
Improving quality of life in secondary Sjogren’s
Quality of life with secondary Sjogren’s syndrome is largely dependent on managing symptoms of the primary autoimmune disease. Disease-modifying therapies such as immunosuppressants, antimalarial drugs, and corticosteroids may be needed to treat the underlying autoimmune disease.
Last updated: Oct. 31, 2019
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