Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that often causes dry mouth and eyes. At his practice located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, world-leading rheumatologist Sergio Schwartzman, MD, has exceptional experience and knowledge in treating patients who have Sjogren’s Syndrome. Dr. Schwartzman is also a clinical associate professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Call the New York City office today to schedule a consultation.
Dryness of the eyes, mouth and other mucous membranes characterizes this autoimmune disease. It can exist as an independent entity, or it can be associated with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.
If an underlying disease is identified, treatment is directed at the underlying disease. If not, there are a number of medications that can address the dryness experienced by patients who have this illness.
Other common symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome include problems with swallowing and acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Lack of saliva can cause tooth decay, inflamed gums, and yeast infections.
Lack of tears can increase the risk of developing eye infections and can rarely lead to corneal damage. Some patients develop stiff, painful joints, rashes due to vasculitis (inflammation in the smaller blood vessels), and swelling in the saliva glands. Fatigue and joint stiffness can also be a part of this illness.
The precise cause of Sjögren's syndrome is not known. What is known is that it is an autoimmune condition.
Autoimmunity is a general term that refers to the condition when the body's immune system becomes overactive. The immune system is the part of the body that fights infection and plays an important role in keeping the body healthy. With autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body and, depending on which organ is affected, results in a unique set of symptoms. Autoimmune diseases include a wide range of conditions and are generally treated by rheumatologists.
Sjögren's syndrome affects the glands that secrete fluid such as the tear ducts and salivary glands, causing inflammation that results in a reduction in fluid production. The cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is unknown.
There are two types of Sjögren's syndrome. The primary type of Sjögren's syndrome develops in people who have no preexisting rheumatic diseases. The secondary type of Sjögren's syndrome develops in people who do have an autoimmune disease, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Sjögren's syndrome is incurable, but in most people, it does not cause serious health issues. Generally, medications that treat the symptoms are utilized. Dry eyes often respond well to the use of artificial tears that keep the eye lubricated. In more severe cases, minor ophthalmic procedures such as utilizing tiny silicone plugs are used. Mouth lubricated by chewing sugarless gum and drinking liquids regularly can help milder symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome. There are also medications that increase the production of saliva and rarely medications that suppress the immune system are used.
For more information about Sjögren's syndrome and how to manage it, call Sergio Schwartzman, MD, today.