Definition of Sjogren syndrome

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Sjogren syndrome: An autoimmune disease that classically combines dry eyes, dry mouth, and another disease of the connective tissues such as rheumatoid arthritis (most common), lupus, scleroderma or polymyositis. Inflammation of the glands that produce tears (the lacrimal glands) leads to decreased tears and dry eyes. Inflammation of the glands that produce the saliva in the mouth (salivary glands, including the parotid glands) leads to dry mouth. Sjogren's syndrome can consequently be complicated by infections of the eyes, breathing passages, and mouth. About 90% of people with Sjogren's syndrome are female, usually in middle age or beyond.

Sjogren's syndrome is typically associated with autoantibodies, antibodies produced by the body that are directed against a variety of body tissues. The diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome can also be aided by a biopsy of affected tissue.

The treatment of Sjogren's syndrome is directed toward the particular areas of the body that are involved by the disease and the complications such as infection.

The syndrome is named after the Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Samuel Conrad Sjogren (1899-1986) who, after seeing a woman of middle age with the disease, collected 19 cases and in his doctoral thesis in 1933 delineated the syndrome. Sjogren's thesis was not considered of sufficient importance to earn him the title of "docent", a decision that cost him a career in academic medicine. The syndrome he discovered nonetheless came to be accepted around the world. Sjogren called the syndrome "keratoconjunctivitis sicca" and it is still sometimes known as the sicca syndrome. The term "sicca" refers to the dryness of the eyes (and mouth).


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