Sjögren’s Syndrome Now Considered 2nd Most Common Autoimmune Condition

This year, the Congress of Clinical Rheumatology East took place from May 12-15, 2022. During the conference, clinical rheumatologists gathered to discuss trends in rheumatology, practice guidelines, and cutting-edge therapeutics. According to Healio, one presentation during the conference, given by Dr. Frederick B. Vivino, MD, MS, discussed the symptoms, classification criteria, and commonality of Sjögren’s syndrome. 

One of the reasons why Dr. Vivino chose to discuss Sjögren’s syndrome, he said, is because it is often neglected as a rheumatological topic of conversation. However, he also stated that since Sjögren’s syndrome has risen to become the second most common autoimmune condition within the United States, it is imperative for physicians and rheumatologists to understand how to diagnose it. Some of the ways he suggests to inform this diagnosis include:

  • Approximately 80% of people with Sjögren’s syndrome have chronic dry eyes and dry mouth. However, Dr. Vivino stresses that it is possible to have Sjögren’s syndrome and to make a diagnosis without these symptoms being present. 
  • Additional symptoms that could aid in a diagnosis include swollen salivary glands, accelerated tooth decay, inflammatory myositis, and peripheral neuropathy. 
  • Testing for anti-SSA or anti-Ro antibodies, alongside an evaluation of the salivary glands and a lip biopsy, could aid in easier and faster diagnosis. 
  • Searching for evidence of dry eyes, salivary involvement, and either anti-SSA antibodies or focal lymphocytic sialadenitis are the three major criteria for pursuing this diagnosis. 

What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

Pronounced “SHOW-grins,”  Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease which impacts moisture-producing glands such as the lacrimal glands (which produce tears) and salivary glands (which produce saliva). Being an autoimmune disease means that the immune system mistakenly attacks its own body. Outside of affecting moisture-producing glands, Sjögren’s syndrome can also impact various organs, including the kidneys and brain. This condition affects females 10x more than males. Additionally, this condition may be primary (with no other autoimmune diseases) or secondary (occurring in people who already have an immune condition, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis). 

Typically, symptom onset appears between ages 45-55, though this condition has been observed in younger individuals. Symptoms can include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Prolonged and extreme fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Gingivitis or dental decay
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Difficulty talking, chewing, or swallowing
  • Dry, peeling lips
  • Eye pain, grittiness, irritation, or burning
  • Increased risk of corneal damage and eye infections
  • Changes in taste or smell
  • Swollen glands
  • Dryness in the nasal passages, skin, vagina, and throat
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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