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What is Sjogren's syndrome?

Answer: 

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune condition that results in the body's immune system targeting its own fluid-secreting glands, including the tear glands. Sjogren's causes widespread effects, with inflammation within the glands reducing the production of fluids. This can cause dry eye and dry mouth.  The condition is one of the more common autoimmune diseases and affects approximately 3 per cent of people. However, because Sjogren's shares symptoms with other more well known diseases, it can be misdiagnosed.

What are the symptoms of Sjogren's?

Dry eye and dry mouth are the most common symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome. Tears contain a mixture of proteins and other components that are important for lubricating the eye and maintaining healthy corneal cells. As such, people suffering dry eye may experience a gritty sensation or itchiness. There is also a likelihood of visual fatigue, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. Sjogren's can develop at any age, but is most common in the 40 to 60 age bracket. The disease is much more prevalent in women than in men, with an approximate 9:1 ratio. In women, Sjogren's can attack the glands responsible for keeping the vagina moist, resulting in vaginal dryness.

What causes Sjogren's syndrome?

The causes of Sjogren's syndrome are largely unknown, although they are thought to be a combination of hormonal, genetic and environmental factors. Researchers believe some people are more prone to the condition at birth and it is then triggered by certain events, such as a bacterial or viral infection. Sjogren's can manifest on its own, known as primary Sjogren's syndrome, or as the result of another autoimmune disease (secondary Sjogren's) such as lupus.

How is Sjogren's diagnosed?

Sjogren's syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, due to the generic nature of its symptoms, which are shared with a number of other diseases. A medical professional will ask for a history of your symptoms and may study tear and saliva production, but there is no definitive test for the condition.

Is there a treatment for Sjogren's syndrome?

There is currently no cure for Sjogren's syndrome, but the symptoms can be managed through various treatments. Artificial tears and saliva can ease dry eye and mouth. These medications should be applied throughout the day, and not just when suffering dryness. Maintaining good eye and mouth hygiene is also important, as the disease results in increased chances of infections. This also prevents other problems such as corneal ulcers and tooth decay.

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