I have been diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome. Is there any treatment and what is the prognosis?
Unfortunately, we just don’t know enough about Sjögren’s syndrome to give you as clear an answer about the prognosis as I’m sure you’d like. It can affect individuals differently. Sometimes it progresses from mild to serious symptoms, but some people never advance. The severity of the condition can fluctuate over time, too.
The situation is often complicated by the presence of other immune-related diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma. If the patient has no such diseases, the Sjögren’s is considered primary Sjögren’s syndrome and when there other diseases, it’s called secondary Sjögren’s.
Named after Henrik Sjögren, the Swedish doctor who first described the disease, Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. That means the immune system mistakenly identifies body tissue as an invading disease and creates antibodies to attack it. With Sjögren’s, the antibodies attack the fluid-producing glands, such as those that produce tears, saliva and vaginal fluids.
Sjögren’s syndrome can cause dry eyes and dry mouth. If left untreated, this can lead to blurred vision, eye damage and other problems, such as tooth decay. Dry eyes and mouth are considered the classic symptoms, but there may be many more. Sjögren’s sometimes affects other organs, including the skin, windpipe, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, blood vessels and others.
According to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, the disorder affects between two and four million Americans – 90 percent of them women. The cause is unknown. There’s no cure for Sjögren’s and treatment focuses on providing symptomatic relief. With early detection, many patients can be treated in a preventive way, for example, with eye drops to keep the eyes moist and prevent damage. Other kinds of symptomatic treatments may also be necessary.