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Arthritis Today

What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

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Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes dryness of the eyes, mouth and other body parts.

In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, leading to inflammation in the body. In Sjögren’s syndrome, the infection-fighting cells of the immune system (lymphocytes) attack the normal cells of glands that produce moisture in the eyes, mouth and other tissues. These are called exocrine glands. This action damages these glands, making them unable to produce moisture.

The disease is classified either as:

  • Primary Sjögren’s. The condition exists by itself.
  • Secondary Sjögren’s. It develops as complication of a pre-existing disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma or myositis

Sjögren’s syndrome affects one to four million people in the United States. Ninety percent of people with the condition are women. Most people are 40 years or older when diagnosed. The chances of developing Sjögren’s syndrome are greater if a relative has it or another autoimmune disease.

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