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Home > Services > Dermatology > Skin Conditions We Treat > Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's Syndrome


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:

Salivary Glands

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

  • Viral infections
  • Environmental factors
  • Heredity
  • Hormones


Factors that increase your risk for Sjogren's include:

  • Sex: female
  • Age: 40-60 years old
  • Other rheumatic or autoimmune diseases
  • Certain gene markers


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


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.

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
  • Slit-lap examination

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


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:


To help relieve dryness:

  • Artificial tears, artificial saliva, and vaginal lubricants
  • Pilocarpine—ocular and oral dryness
  • Cevimeline—requires less frequent dosing than pilocarpine, may cause nausea

To relieve joint and muscle pain:

  • Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

To relieve inflammation / swelling:

  • Plaquenil—antimalarial drug with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Steroids
  • Methotrexate—a steroid-sparing agent
Lifestyle Measures
  • Mild exercise can help relieve stiffness in the joints.
  • To help relieve dry mouth, sip liquids often and suck on sugar-free candies.
  • Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly. This can help to prevent cavities.
  • Use unscented moisturizers to help relieve dry skin.

This condition is generally benign. However, people with severe cases are at increased risk for developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is a cancer of the white blood cells. Your doctor will need to monitor you for this.


There are no guidelines for preventing Sjogren's syndrome. The cause is unknown.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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