Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by the body’s white blood cells attacking and destroying the exocrine glands, specifically the salivary and lacrimal glands. The lacrimal glands are those that produce tears. The end result is the development of dry mouth (xerostomia) and dry eyes (keratoconjunctivitis sicca).
The exact cause of Sjogren’s syndrome remains unknown. It is, however, suspected of being a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors. There is a high prevalence of Sjogren’s syndrome in some families, indicating a genetic predisposition. It is also highly present in women, suggesting that estrogen may play some role.
The most common symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome is that of a generalized dryness, in both the mouth and eyes. However, other parts of the body, including the nose, skin, and vagina, may be affected. Sjogren’s syndrome can also affect the body’s organs, including the kidney, lungs, blood vessels, pancreas, and brain. Diagnosis is complicated, due to the wide range of symptoms that a patient may manifest, and the similarity of Sjogren’s syndrome to other medical conditions. There is neither a cure nor a specific course of treatment for the disease. For the most part, symptoms are remedied through adaptive measures, such as the use of artificial tears. Prescription cyclosporine (Restasis) can also be used in order to treat chronic dry eyes.