What is Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome, also known as Sjögren’s and Sjögren’s disease, is a chronic (long-lasting) disorder that happens when the immune system attacks the glands that make moisture in the eyes, mouth, and other parts of the body.

The main symptoms are dry eyes and mouth, but the disorder may affect other parts of the body. Many people with Sjogren’s syndrome say they feel tired often (fatigue). They also may have joint and muscle pain. In addition, the disease can damage the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system.

Who gets Sjögren’s syndrome?

Most people with Sjögren’s syndrome are women. You can get it at any age, but it is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. It occurs across all racial and ethnic groups.

What are the types of Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome is divided into two categories:

  • Primary form. You have this form if you do not have another rheumatic disease (a disease that causes your immune system to attack your joints, muscles, bones and other organs).
  • Secondary form. You have this form if you also have another rheumatic disease, such as:

What are the symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome?

The symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome vary from person to person. In some people, symptoms go back and forth between mild and severe.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Dry eyes. Your eyes may burn or itch or feel like they have sand in them. Sometimes, the dryness causes blurry vision or sensitivity to bright light. You may get irritated, itchy eyelids due to inflammation.
  • Dry mouth. Your mouth may feel chalky, and you may have trouble swallowing, speaking, and tasting. You may develop more cavities and mouth infections.

In some cases, Sjögren’s syndrome affects other tissues and organs and has more widespread effects on the body. These other effects may cause:

  • Fatigue (feeling very tired).
  • Joint pain and muscle aches and weakness.
  • Dry skin, nasal passages, and throat, and a dry cough.
  • Skin rashes.
  • Swelling of the glands around the face and neck.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Poor concentration and memory problems.
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness, especially in your arms and legs.
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

What causes Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome happens when the immune system attacks healthy tissues. Normally, your immune system protects your body from infection and disease.

Doctors do not know what causes the immune system to turn on the body, but they believe that both genes and environmental factors are involved.