Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease, that is, a disease in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells. In Sjogren's syndrome, the immune system targets moisture-producing glands and causes dryness in the mouth and eyes. Other parts of the body can be affected as well, resulting in a wide range of possible symptoms.
Moisture Producing Glands
Normally, the immune system works to protect us from disease by destroying harmful invading organisms like viruses and bacteria. In the case of Sjogren's syndrome, disease-fighting cells attack the glands that produce tears and saliva. Damage to these glands keeps them from working properly and causes dry eyes and dry mouth. Your doctor may use these technical terms when talking to you about Sjogren's syndrome.
- dry eyes are called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS
- dry mouth is called xerostomia
The disease can affect other glands too, such as those in the:
It can cause dryness in other places that need moisture, such as the:
Sjogren's syndrome is one of over 100 rheumatic diseases. A rheumatic disease causes inflammation in:
- other body tissue
Sjogren's syndrome is also considered a disorder of connective tissue, which is the framework of the body that supports organs and tissues (joints, muscles, and skin)
Sjogren's syndrome is classified as either a primary or secondary disease.