Sjögren disease, previously known as Sjögren’s syndrome, is an autoimmune disorder that affects the glands responsible for producing saliva and tears. It can cause dry mouth and eyes.

Sjögren disease is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects salivary and lacrimal glands. These glands help the body create moisture in the eyes and mouth in the form of saliva and tears. In this autoimmune disorder, the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and damages these glands.

As a result, the body fails to produce enough moisture.

Learn more about Sjögren disease, including symptoms, potential causes, and how doctors treat it.

Doctors categorize Sjögren disease as either primary or secondary.

In primary Sjögren disease, no other rheumatic disease is present. In secondary Sjögren disease, an individual has another autoimmune disease.

Primary Sjögren disease tends to be more aggressive and can cause more dryness.

Sjögren disease can affect the whole body. Symptoms can include:

  • dry mouth, which can affect speaking and swallowing and increase the risk of cavities
  • heartburn
  • dry nasal passages
  • dry eyes, which can feel like a burning sensation or like a foreign object is in your eye
  • vaginal dryness
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • rashes
  • joint pain
  • constipation
  • dry cough that doesn’t go away
  • organ inflammation, which may affect organs like the kidneys, lungs, and pancreas

People likely develop Sjögren disease due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as previous infection with viruses or bacteria. Some risk factors may include:

  • Sex assigned at birth: Sjögren disease affects females more often than males, and 9 out of 10 people with the disease are female.
  • Age: While people of all ages can get Sjögren disease, symptoms tend to appear between ages 45 and 55.
  • Another rheumatic disease: About half of the people with Sjögren disease have rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, or polymyositis.

No one diagnostic test exists for this condition. Doctors typically begin with a physical exam and health history.

Because the symptoms of Sjögren disease are generalized symptoms, doctors typically order a variety of tests to diagnose it. This can include:

  • blood tests to check for certain antibodies that are linked to Sjögren disease
  • tests to check eye moisture
  • tests to check salivary gland production
  • a sialogram, or X-ray of the salivary glands

Your doctor may ask about any medications or supplements you’re taking because the side effects of certain drugs are similar to the symptoms of Sjögren disease.

There’s no cure for Sjögren disease, but treatment can help relieve symptoms. This can include:

Having Sjögren disease can increase your risk of developing lymphoma. This is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is related to the immune system.

The following can all be symptoms of lymphoma:

Talk with a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

What is life expectancy with Sjögren disease?

Many people with Sjögren disease have a typical life expectancy, especially if the disease is mild. People who develop lymphoma or other complications from Sjögren disease may have a lower life expectancy.

What happens if Sjögren disease goes untreated?

Untreated, Sjögren disease can cause a poor quality of life and complications, including dental cavities, nerve dysfunction, ulcers on the surface of the eye, nosebleeds, swollen salivary glands, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, slow emptying of the stomach, bowel symptoms, and kidney symptoms.

Treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

What triggers a Sjögren disease flare up?

Some medications that reduce secretions can make Sjögren disease worse. You may find that other triggers, like stress, can worsen your symptoms.

What does the skin look like with Sjögren disease?

If you have Sjögren disease, you may have dry skin and rashes.

Sjögren disease is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the glands that create moisture in the eyes and mouth. This can affect the production of tears and saliva and cause symptoms like dry mouth and dry eyes. Sjögren disease can also affect the skin and other organs.

You may be more likely to get it if you have rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases.

Treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.