What is Sjögren’s syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome is an inflammatory condition of the secretory glands, i.e. the glands that produce saliva, tears, vaginal secretions and others. This causes symptoms such as dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, dry vagina and dryness of the gastrointestinal tract. This can result in difficulty swallowing certain foods and may result in symptoms that resemble irritable bowel syndrome. There can also be associated symptoms of fatigue, joint and muscle aches and low mood.
Sjögren’s syndrome typically presents between the ages of 30 and 60 and affects more women than men. Sjögren’s syndrome can be associated with other rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
How is Sjögren’s syndrome treated?
Treatments tend to be based around relieving the symptoms of dryness in different parts of the body. Eye dryness can be relieved by using lubricating eye drops such as hypromellose or Viscotears. Particularly troublesome eye symptoms may be referred to the ophthalmologist (eye doctor) for further assessment.
For a dry mouth, artificial saliva preparations can be useful, such as Biotene Oral Balance. Pilocarpine may also be used, which is a drug that stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva. It is important to look after dental hygiene as well, and mouthwashes such as Corsodyl may be recommended.
If joint or muscle pains are a feature of your Sjögren’s syndrome, then painkillers such as paracetamol, or anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may be useful. If specific joints are affected, local joint injection with a steroid can help ease the symptoms, as can a course of oral steroids.
In difficult to treat cases, hydroxychloroquine (a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug) may be prescribed. This works on the body’s inflammatory response, helping to reduce the symptoms of inflammation.
Where can I find out more about Sjögren’s syndrome?
British Sjögren’s Syndrome Association
- Guide to Sjögren’s Syndrome [PDF] – including symptoms, treatments and self-help information
Arthritis Research UK
- About Sjögren’s Syndrome – including diagnosis information, treatment options and living with Sjögren’s Syndrome