Sjögren's syndrome

What is it?

This is an inflammation of the exocrine glands, caused by an incorrect reaction of the immune system. Inflammatory lesions cause a decrease in the production of tears and saliva and, as a result, dry eyes and mouth.

The syndrome was first described in 1933 by Swedish ophthalmologist Herik Sjogren, who discovered it in a group of patients with chronic arthritis. In fact, this syndrome is not just a disease of the glands, but a disease that can affect various internal organs.

Causes and risk factors

The cause may be a combination of genetic, hormonal (nine out of ten patients are women) and immunological factors.

The immune response, which is supposed to attack foreign microorganisms, is mistakenly directed against the tissue of exocrine glands, causing inflammation and eventually their destruction.

Which are the symptoms?

This usually causes:

  • persistent visual disturbances (burning and feeling of sand in the eyes);
  • frequent oral infections;
  • parotid gland edema;
  • fever, difficulty chewing and swallowing dry food.

The disease can also cause noticeable fatigue, joint pain, and dryness of the nasal and vaginal mucosa.

In some cases, other organs may be affected, such as the skin, lungs, and kidneys.

In about half of the patients, Sjogren's syndrome is associated with other rheumatological syndromes, especially rheumatoid arthritis or mixed connective tissue disease. The autoimmune response is demonstrated by the presence of autoantibodies in the blood serum of patients that react with body components such as antinuclear antibodies and rheumatoid factor.

How is it diagnosed?

Suggested exams

How is it treated?

There is no treatment that can completely restore the function of the damaged glands.

It is very important to use eye drops and topical drugs to make up for the lack of natural tears and to prevent damage caused by dry eyes. And drugs, such as pilocarpine, which stimulate the secretion of glands, can relieve the symptoms associated with dry mouth.

In some cases, especially if other glands are effected, cortisone or immunosuppressant therapy may be required.

Where do we treat it?

Within the San Donato Group, you can find Sjögren's syndrome specialists at these departments:

Are you interested in receiving the treatment?

Contact us and we will take care of you.