A healthy immune system’s function is to attack foreign invaders. Sometimes, the body’s immune system can start attacking healthy cells mistakenly. The term used to describe this occurrence is an autoimmune disease. Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease of the exocrine glands and is often associated with lymphocytic infiltration of the surrounding glands.

This article will give you more information on the Sjögren’s syndrome treatment Brisbane residents can access through us. If needed, you can schedule a consultation by clicking here to learn more about the possible solutions.

What is Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome is one of the more common autoimmune rheumatic conditions affecting the Australian population. Sjögren’s syndrome primarily affects the exocrine glands, mainly the salivary (produce saliva) and lacrimal glands (produce tears). This usually occurs due to a dysfunction of the immune system which causes the white blood cells in the body to attack healthy cells.

Lymphocytic infiltration (white blood cells enter the exocrine glands) of the affected glands can lead to abnormal dryness of the eyes and mouth. This dryness can occur alone (primary Sjögren’s syndrome), or in the presence of another autoimmune condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.  Primary Sjögren’s syndrome can be more aggressive and result in more abnormal dryness than the latter.

What are the symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome can affect many different parts of the body. The most common symptoms and clinical features of Sjögren’s syndrome can be divided into those related to the exocrine system, and those that affect other organs.

sjogren syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome causes both glandular and multiple organ symptoms, with flare-ups presenting in a variety of ways.

The most common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome include, but are not excluded to:

  • Dry mouth - Can be chronic and may affect the cavities. Abnormal dry mouth can lead to difficulty talking or swallowing.
  • Dry eyes - Can feel like a painful burning sensation or as if there is a foreign body in your eye. Dry eyes caused by Sjörgen’s syndrome can also lead to increased sensitivity to light.
  • Enlarged glands - Bilateral enlargement of the pituitary glands are common.
  • Dry skin - Can often result in itchiness.
  • Dryness of the upper respiratory tract - A dry nose or trachea can occur leading to a chronic cough.
  • In females, vaginal dryness - Can lead to an increased risk of UTIs and a painful burning sensation when urinating.

Extraglandular symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon - reduced blood flow to the fingers
  • Organs - during serious inflammation, a patient’s lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, or other tissues can be affected.

What causes Sjögren’s syndrome?

The causes of Sjögren’s syndrome are still widely unknown. Studies revolving around this condition have confirmed that it is an autoimmune condition resulting from our body’s immune system.

Due to the nature of the condition, research has led us to believe that there are multiple environmental and genetic factors that can predispose individuals to Sjögren’s syndrome.

Environmental factors - viral infections, and smoking have been shown to affect our immune system. Studies show that Sjögren’s syndrome was more commonly found amongst smokers.

Genetic factors - Genome-wide studies have shown a strong association between Sjögren’s syndrome and various genes.

How is Sjögren’s syndrome diagnosed?

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic, slowly progressing disease whose clinical manifestations vary greatly from organ-specific presentations to generalised symptoms. Sjögren’s syndrome is diagnosed by evaluating a patient’s symptoms, especially if they present with dry eyes and a dry mouth. Your Rheumatologist must rule out other causative conditions before coming to a diagnosis. They will carry out a physical examination and perform further testing to confirm their suspicions.

One test your Rheumatologist can do is called a Schirmer’s Test. This tool is used to aid the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. A calibrated strip of paper is placed within your lower eyelid. You will then be asked to close your eyes for 5 minutes. Once the time is up, the paper will be assessed for wetness.

Additionally, a biopsy of your salivary glands can be taken from the inner lip to confirm the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome.

sjogren syndrome treatment

Multiple tests are performed on the biopsy of salivary glands to confirm Sjogren’s syndrome.

Can Sjögren’s syndrome be cured?

Like many other autoimmune conditions, Sjögren’s syndrome cannot be cured. However, there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage symptoms and improve a patient’s quality of life.

What is the best treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome?

Treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome involves relieving the symptoms associated with the condition. The most common medications prescribed are eye drops and lozenges that help facilitate the production of saliva or tears. If an individual is experiencing joint pain, they can use over the counter anti-inflammatory medications if recommended by their specialist.

Your Rheumatologist can also recommend some lifestyle changes such as incorporating a healthier diet and balancing it out with sufficient activity to tackle fatigue. There is currently no single medicine that can completely treat all symptoms associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.

How can our autoimmune specialist in Brisbane help?

We, at Rheumatology.com.au, have access to a team of Rheumatologists that specialises in various rheumatic diseases. We are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to help provide you with a complete management plan. We pride ourselves on looking after a patient’s health as a whole, instead of only treating the initial presentations.

Your Rheumatologist will give you advice, prescribe medications, and follow up regularly with you to check your pain has subsided and your symptoms have alleviated. If you experience dryness of the eyes and mouth, contact us at your soonest convenience to discuss your treatment options and allow us to get you back to your normal daily life.

Our Sjögren’s
Syndrome Doctors

Our Rheumatologists are compassionate, caring, and committed to providing you with
treatment plans tailored to your individual needs. Meet our expert team below.

ArthritisCARE Rheumatologists
Dr Peter Landsberg

MBBS (Hons), DipRACOG, FRACGP, FRACP

Peter founded rheumatology.com.au in 2016. He is a specialist Rheumatologist with a keen interest in treating inflammatory arthritis and connective tissue disorders. His earlier years spent as a General Practitioner allow him to offer a uniquely holistic approach to patient care. He also has a strong commitment to being involved in training upcoming Rheumatologists.

Dr Clare Owens

MBBS, BSc, FRACP

Clare has a passion for research. She completed her rheumatology training in Queensland and was awarded the prestigious Arthritis Australia International Research Grant, which allowed her to undertake research at the University of Leeds in the UK, a recognised European Rheumatology Centre of Excellence. Her specific areas of interest include osteoarthritis, soft tissue rheumatism, gout and connective tissue diseases such as lupus.

Dr Sergei Grosman

MBBS, BSc, FRACP

Sergei completed advanced training in General and Acute Care Medicine in 2018, after which he pursued his strong interest in Rheumatology. He spent his training years in hospitals in Sydney, Brisbane and across Queensland. Sergei has a keen interest in all aspects of rheumatology and works closely with his patients to provide an individualised approach to care.

Dr Louise McCormack

MBBS (Hons), BSc, FRACP

Louise holds fellowships from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in both General Medicine and Rheumatology and has been expertly practising as a Rheumatologist for over 12 years. In addition to her role at rheumatology.com.au, she provides her consultant specialist expertise to the Princess Alexandra Hospital and QEII Hospital Rheumatology Clinics in Brisbane.

Dr Maryam Zia

MBBS, MD, FRACP

Maryam specialised in 2019 after having completed her initial training at the University of Punjab in Pakistan. She completed her advanced training at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane and at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. She is interested in all aspects of inflammatory autoimmune diseases.

Dr Joseph O'Callaghan

MBBS, BSc, FRACP

Dr Joseph O'Callaghan is a consultant in adult general rheumatology. He is a visiting Rheumatologist at the Mater Adult Hospital. He undertook his rheumatology training in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney and in Edmonton, Canada. He completed an MD on the anti-inflammatory effects of methotrexate while a Spurway Fellow in Rheumatology at the Royal North Shore Hospital. Dr O'Callaghan has an interest in all aspects of rheumatology care.

Dr Divita Jhaveri

MBBS (Hons), FRACP

Dr Divita Jhaveri (MBBS (Hons), FRACP) is a Queensland trained Rheumatologist who gained her medical qualification from James Cook University in Townsville followed by residency and rheumatology training in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. She is currently also a visiting staff specialist at the Logan Hospital and the QE II Hospital and investigator for rheumatology clinical trials at Griffith University. She is also an associate lecturer at the University of Queensland. Divita is interested in offering patient-centered care for a variety of conditions such as arthritis, auto-immune muscle diseases etc.

Sjögren’s Syndrome
FAQs

Sjögren’s syndrome is a complicated disease. Therefore, we have formulated a set of commonly
asked questions and answers for you to attend to if you have any further worries.

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