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Sjögren’s Syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is an inflammatory condition that causes a decrease in the body’s ability to produce saliva and tears. It is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it develops because the body is attacking its own tissues—in this case, moisture-producing glands. Dryness of the mouth can lead to tooth decay, changes in the ability to taste food and trouble with talking and swallowing. Dryness of the eyes can cause blurred vision and, over time, damage to the cornea.

Physicians classify Sjögren’s syndrome into two equally common types: primary and secondary. Primary Sjögren’s syndrome occurs by itself, while the secondary type arises alongside another autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Other common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome include:

  • Dry sinuses
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Digestive problems

In some cases, Sjögren’s syndrome can cause inflammation of the liver, kidney or lungs. The disorder also increases the risk of developing lymphoma, although the vast majority of people with Sjögren’s syndrome do not get lymphoma.

Sjögren’s syndrome is typically—but not exclusively—a disorder of midlife, most often occurring between ages 45 and 55. About 9 in 10 people with Sjögren’s syndrome are women. Scientists do not know what causes Sjögren’s syndrome, but they suspect it emerges from a combination of genetic susceptibility and an environmental trigger, such as a virus.

Early diagnosis and treatment of Sjögren’s syndrome can help patients avoid dental and other complications. However, symptoms develop gradually and can look like those of numerous other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia. As a result, patients often do not receive an accurate diagnosis of this disorder until several years after they begin experiencing problems.

Our rheumatologists are skilled at identifying Sjögren’s syndrome based on a combination of physical examination, medical history and testing, sometimes including gland biopsy, tear-production assessment and bloodwork.

Although there is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome, we provide highly individualized treatment to control symptoms, prevent complications and help you maintain a high quality of life. We also take advantage of the comprehensive referral network of Indiana University Health to connect you with ophthalmologists and other specialists for management of specific problems.

With appropriate management of the condition, people with Sjögren’s syndrome can generally continue with their typical activities and enjoy a normal lifespan.

Our partnership with the Indiana University School of Medicine means we have access to the most up-to-date tools for identifying and managing Sjögren’s syndrome. Through this affiliation, we also help train the physicians of tomorrow and carry out research to better understand, diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Sjögren’s Syndrome Treatment Information

Several types of treatment are available for people with Sjögren’s syndrome. Options include:

Sjögren’s Syndrome Locations & Physicians

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Sjögren’s Syndrome Support Services

Learn more about Sjögren’s syndrome by visiting the following websites: