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  • Writer's pictureJessica Frizzell, PA-C

Understanding Sjögren's Syndrome: Common Symptoms and Their Impact

Sjögren's Syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated 4 million Americans worldwide. This disorder primarily targets the body's moisture-producing glands, leading to symptoms that can significantly impact a person's quality of life. Understanding the most common symptoms of Sjögren's Syndrome is crucial for early detection and effective management of the condition.

What is Sjögren's Syndrome?

According to the American College of Rheumatology, Sjögren's Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's moisture-producing glands, such as the salivary glands and tear-producing glands (lacrimal glands). This results in reduced production of saliva and tears, causing symptoms like dry mouth and eyes, among others.

Sjögren’s syndrome affects women about 10 times more often than men and typically affects individuals between the ages of 45 and 55 (source: American College of Rheumatology).

In this article, we will discuss the most common symptoms of Sjögren's Syndrome.

Common Symptoms of Sjögren's Syndrome

1. Dry Mouth (Xerostomia):

One of the hallmark symptoms of Sjögren's Syndrome is a persistent dry mouth due to reduced saliva production. Saliva is essential for maintaining oral health, aiding in digestion, and preventing tooth decay.

2. Dry Eyes (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Sjögren's Syndrome often causes dryness and irritation of the eyes due to decreased tear production. This can result in a gritty or burning sensation, blurred vision, and light sensitivity.

3. Fatigue

Chronic fatigue is a prevalent symptom in individuals with Sjögren's Syndrome. The underlying mechanisms contributing to this fatigue are not fully understood, but it can be debilitating and impact daily activities.

4. Joint Pain and Swelling

Many individuals with Sjögren's Syndrome experience joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, often resembling symptoms of arthritis. These symptoms can affect multiple joints and may fluctuate in intensity.

5. Muscle Aches and Weakness

Muscle discomfort, aches, and weakness are common in individuals with Sjögren's Syndrome, potentially limiting physical activities and contributing to the overall feeling of fatigue.

6. Dry Skin and Skin Rashes

Sjögren's Syndrome can cause a reduction in moisture in the skin which can lead to dry and irritated skin. Some individuals may also develop skin rashes as a result of the autoimmune response in Sjögren's Syndrome.

7. Swollen Salivary Glands

The salivary glands, located near the jaw and in front of the ears, can become swollen and tender. This swelling may fluctuate in severity.

8. Difficulty Swallowing

Due to reduced saliva production and swollen salivary glands, individuals with Sjögren's Syndrome may experience difficulty swallowing, which can impact eating and overall nutritional intake.

9. Dental Issues

The lack of saliva can lead to dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and oral infections. Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene are essential for managing this aspect of the disease.

10. Respiratory and Vaginal Dryness

In some cases, individuals may experience dryness in the respiratory tract, leading to a chronic cough or recurrent respiratory infections. Vaginal dryness can also occur, causing discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse.

Sjögren's Syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by the dysfunction of moisture-producing glands, leading to symptoms such as dry mouth, dry eyes, fatigue, joint pain, and more. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are crucial to alleviate symptoms and enhance the quality of life for individuals living with this condition. If you suspect you may have Sjögren's Syndrome, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult with your doctor on taking the next steps.

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