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Salivary Glands  
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Definition  

Sjogren's syndrome is an inflammatory disease. The immune system destroys cells in exocrine glands. It occurs most often in the tear and salivary glands. It is a lifelong condition. There are two types:

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Causes  

The causes of Sjogren's are unknown. Contributing factors may include:

  • Viral infections
  • Environmental factors
  • Heredity
  • Hormones
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Risk Factors  

Women and people between the ages of 40-60 years old are at increased risk. Factors that increase your risk for Sjogren's include:

  • Other rheumatic or autoimmune diseases
  • Certain gene markers
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Symptoms  

Symptoms may include:

  • Red, burning, itching, and/or dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Dry skin, nose, throat, and/or lungs
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Severe dental cavities caused by dry mouth
  • Oral yeast infections
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue

In some cases, other parts of the body are affected as well. These include:

  • Blood vessels
  • The nervous system
  • Organs such as the lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and thyroid
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Diagnosis  

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. You may also be referred to a dentist for an exam.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Lip biopsy

Your eyes may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Schirmer test to measure tear production
  • Slit-lamp examination

Images may also be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with a chest x-ray.

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Treatment  

There is no cure for Sjogren's. No treatment can restore the ability of the glands to produce moisture. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

Treatments include:

Medication  

You may be given medications to relieve:

  • Dryness
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Inflammation and swelling

Lifestyle Measures  

Lifestyle changes may help to relieve symptoms. These include:

  • Exercise to relieve stiffness in the joints
  • Sipping liquids and sucking on sugar-free candies to relieve dryness
  • Good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups
  • Using unscented moisturizers to help relieve dry skin

People with severe cases of this syndrome are at increased risk for developing cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and thyroid cancer. This is a cancer of the white blood cells. Your doctor will need to monitor you for this.