Sjögren's syndrome may affect only the eyes or only the mouth or it may be more general. One out of three people who have Sjögren's syndrome also have arthritis. A person may have signs of a rheumatic disease, but not have the dry eyes or mouth associated with some forms of Sjögren's.
The disease damages the glands that supply saliva to the mouth and tears to the eyes. This causes the cornea of the eye and the tissues around the eye to dry out. The eyes may feel scratchy or irritated. In advanced cases, the cornea may be damaged, impairing vision.
Persons with Sjögren's syndrome have little or no saliva. This causes a dry mouth and lips. It also makes chewing and swallowing difficult and promotes tooth decay. The disease may also affect a person's ability to taste or smell food.
Other parts of the body where there are mucous membranes also begin to dry out. This includes the nose, throat, lungs, vulva and vagina. Drying in the lungs can result in lung infections or pneumonia. There may be a loss of hair on the body.
Other symptoms may include:
- Chronic diseases of the liver, gall bladder and pancreas
- Loss of the ability of the nerves to feel sensation
- Kidney disorders
Causes and Risk Factors
Sjögren's syndrome is more common than lupus but less common than rheumatoid arthritis. While its cause is not known, there may be a genetic factor.
A person who has Sjögren's syndrome has a 44 times higher risk of lymphoma compared to other people. Additionally, such individuals are at higher risk of Waldenström's macroglobulinemia.