What Is Sjogren's Syndrome?
When you have Sjogren's syndrome, your eyes, mouth, and other parts of your body get dried out. There are treatments that bring relief, though.
It's natural to worry when you learn you've got a lifelong disease that will need regular care. Keep in mind that most people with Sjogren's stay healthy and don't have serious problems. You should be able to keep doing all the things you love to do without making many changes.
Sjogren's causes your immune system to go haywire and attack healthy cells instead of invading bacteria or viruses. Conditions like this are called autoimmune diseases. Your white blood cells, which normally protect you from germs, attack the glands that are in charge of making moisture. When that happens, they can't produce tears and saliva.
Dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms. You can sometimes get problems in other parts of your body, such as swollen glands around your face and neck, dry skin or nasal passages, or painful and stiff joints.
About half of people with Sjogren's also have another autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. That can sometimes make it harder for your doctor to give you a diagnosis.
You'll need to take medicine throughout your life to help you manage your symptoms. You can buy some kinds in a drugstore without a prescription, such as drops that keep your eyes moist. Your doctor can prescribe other drugs that boost the amount of saliva in your mouth.
Doctors don't know the exact cause. You may have genes that put you at risk. An infection with a bacteria or virus may be a trigger that sets the disease in motion.
For example, let's say you have a broken gene that's linked to Sjogren's, and then you get an infection. Your immune system swings into action.
White blood cells normally lead the attack against the germs. But because of your faulty gene, your white blood cells target healthy cells in the glands that make saliva and tears. There's no let-up in the fight, so your symptoms will keep going unless you get treatment.