Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the moisture-producing glands in the body, including the salivary and tear glands. Very often, it’s accompanied by rheumatoid arthritis. It’s thought to be triggered by environmental events such as exposure to bacteria or viral particles.Patients with Sjögren’s syndrome suffer from dry eyes and dry mouth, both of which are treatable, yet cause great discomfort. Sjögren’s also increases a person’s risk of developing lymphoma. For some patients, serious complications can occur, such as chronic pain and fatigue, major organ involvement, and neuropathy. It’s thought that there are nearly 4 million Americans with this disease, the overwhelming majority of which are women. Only 10% are men.
There are two forms of this disease: Primary and secondary. With primary Sjögren’s, there are no other underlying conditions present. Secondary Sjögren’s is seen with other autoimmune connective tissue disorders.
Among the treatments available are modified antibodies, such as abatacept, which is known by its trade name Orencia. This drug interferes with the immune activity of T-cells and can ease the symptoms.
As with any chronic disease, finding support can greatly improve quality of life. The first support group for Sjögren’s syndrome was started in 1983, and there are currently groups throughout the United States. To find a group near you, click here.
If you would like more information about this rare disease, contact the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation online.