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Sjogren's Syndrome Symptoms and Treatments

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: lrohner • updated: 9/30/2010

Do you know the Sjogren's syndrome symptoms? If not, read on to learn what they are.

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    It is estimated that Sjogren's syndrome affects between 400,000 and 3.1 million adults, according to the American College of Rheumatology. This condition is an immune system disorder primarily characterized by dry mouth and dry eyes. This condition is often seen along with other autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. With this condition, the moisture-secreting glands and mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes are most often affected first. This results in reduced production of saliva and tears. This condition tends to affect adults older than 40 most of the time, but it can occur at any age. Women are affected far more often than men are. Being able to recognize Sjogren's syndrome symptoms can help the patient is getting the proper treatment faster.

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    This condition may present with many symptoms. The two main symptoms include:

    • Dry mouth: The patient may feel like their mouth has cotton in it, possibly resulting in trouble speaking or swallowing
    • Dry eyes: The patient's eyes may itch, burn, or feel gritty, like they would if there was sand in the eyes

    Other possible symptoms may include:

    • Dry skin or skin rashes
    • Persistent dry cough
    • Swollen salivary glands
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Prolonged fatigue

    Some patients may experience joint pain or stiffness, as well as mild swelling. Inflammation in the lungs, kidney, and liver may occur, but is rare. Neurological complications are possible, such as weakness, tingling, and numbness.

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    Medications are very commonly used to treat this condition, and are often prescribed to target specific Sjogren's syndrome symptoms or complications. Sipping water more often may also help with dry mouth. Drugs to increase saliva production may be prescribed if sipping more water is not effective enough. Certain medications, such as cevimeline and pilocarpine may help to increase saliva production, and in some cases, tears. Possible side effects may include abdominal pain, increased urination, sweating, and flushing.

    Treating system-wide symptoms may be used when the patient is experiencing several different symptoms. A drug used to treat malaria, known as hydroxychloroquine, has been shown to be helpful in treating this condition. Drugs that suppress the immune system may also be helpful, such as cyclosporine or methotrexate. All of these medications may cause side effects and the patient's doctor will discuss these with them prior to starting treatment.

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    A minor surgical procedure, referred to as punctal occlusion, may be done to relieve dry eyes. This procedure uses silicone or collagen to temporarily close the tear ducts. If these ducts need to be sealed permanently, a laser may be used. Surgery is only done in severe cases and/or when all other treatments have not been effective for the patient.

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    Resources (2009). Sjogren's Syndrome. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from

    American College of Rheumatology. (2008). Sjogren's Syndrome. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from the American College of Rheumatology: