Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the glands that maintain moisture in your body, such as saliva and tears. The main symptoms are dry mouth and dry eyes, but it can also cause dryness of the skin, nose, throat, and vagina.
Sjögren’s syndrome is also in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and affects your bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and it can cause swelling, pain, and can limit your range of motion. Additionally, Sjogren’s syndrome can involve blood vessels, digestive organs, kidneys, lungs, and nerves.
Sjögren syndrome can occur at any age, but it mostly affects women over 40. It often occurs along with other immune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Symptoms may include:
- Dry eyes or irritated eyes
- Dry mouth, which can cause mouth infections and affect swallowing, speaking, and tasting
- Skin problems, including dryness and rashes
- Chronic dry cough
- Thyroid problems
- Muscle and joint pain
- Numbness and tingling in your arms and legs
- Vaginal dryness
Rheumatologists at University of Miami Health System offer expert care to relieve your Sjögren's symptoms and improve your quality of life when living with an autoimmune disorder. With locations throughout South Florida, you can get personalized treatment for your immune system that's close to home.
Doctors use a variety of approaches to treat dry eyes, including drops and ointments to increase or retain moisture, and medicines to reduce swelling and irritation.
Doctors use a variety of medicines to treat Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms, including:
- Corticosteroids: slow the body's immune response to relieve swelling and pain
- Disease-modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): suppress the immune system broadly to prevent swelling
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): reduce swelling and relieve pain, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve)
There are a variety of treatments for dry mouth, including medicines that increase your body's saliva production and saliva substitutes. Your doctor will also recommend tips to combat dry mouth, such as:
- Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candy to stimulate saliva production
- Sipping water or other sugar-free drinks frequently
- Wearing lip balm to ease dry, cracked lips
Blood and Urine Tests
Doctors use a wide range of blood tests to diagnose autoimmune disease, like Sjogren’s syndrome, including a complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein test, rheumatoid factor test, and others. Blood tests can determine whether you have swelling and provide information about the health of your organs, including your liver and thyroid. Your doctor may also analyze your urine (urinalysis) to learn how your bladder and kidneys are functioning.
Tear Production Test
In addition to an eye exam, your doctor may perform the Schirmer test to measure your level of dry eyes or your eyes' ability to produce tears. Your doctor places a small paper strip on the inside of your lower eyelids, and you close your eyes for 5 minutes. When the strips are removed, your doctor measures how much of the strip is moistened. Doctors also use a phenol red thread test, which uses special thread instead of paper strips.
Salivary Gland Biopsy
A biopsy removes salivary gland cells or tissues for closer examination in the lab to properly diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome. Your major salivary glands are located in front of your ears, below your jaw, and in the floor of your mouth, and you have thousands of minor glands in your tongue, cheeks, and lips. Depending on the area that’s biopsied, your doctor may use a needle to gather cells or perform minor surgery to take a sample.
Your doctor may use additional tests to diagnose Sjogren's syndrome, depending on your symptoms. Tests could include a skin biopsy, thyroid function tests, chest X-rays, a neurological exam, or others.
Why Choose UHealth?
The latest treatments for Sjögren’s syndrome. Our rheumatologists are also researchers, so you get care from specialists on the leading edge of autoimmune disease and rheumatic disease care. You get the latest approaches from an experienced team.
Comprehensive care from a team of specialists. Sjögren syndrome affects many areas of your body, so our rheumatologists work with doctors from a full range of medical specialties to give you complete care. You get comprehensive, coordinated care from dermatologists, gastroenterologists, cardiovascular specialists, pulmonologists (lung diseases), nephrologists (kidney diseases), orthopedic doctors, and others as needed.
Specialized care to improve your quality of life. Your team will educate you about caring for your dry eyes and dry mouth, protecting your voice, and avoiding medicines or other substances that make symptoms worse. We make sure you have the support and resources you need to relieve symptoms and improve your well-being.
Questions? We're here to help.
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