Sjogrens syndrome headache

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

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From the American College of Rheumatology

Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is a systemic autoimmune disease in which immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva.

Sjogren's syndrome is also associated with rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. The hallmark symptoms of the disorder are dry mouth and dry eyes. In addition, Sjogren's syndrome may cause skin, nose, and vaginal dryness, and may affect other organs of the body including the kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and brain.

Sjögren's syndrome may occur as a primary disorder (Primary Sjögren's syndrome) or secondary to another autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), progressive systemic sclerosis (PSS), polymyositis (PM), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

The cause of Sjögren's syndrome is unknown, but 0.5-3% of the adult population are affected. Most Sjögren's sufferers are female (9:1 women: men), and, on average, the age at diagnosis is 50 years.

Sjögren's syndrome often leads to reductions in a patient's emotional and social well-being. In addition to the dry eye and dry mouth complaints, common symptoms include fatigue, low mood, irritability, headache, and impaired cognitive function.

Complications include kidney involvement, pancreatitis, lymphoma, and a rare condition called Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia. These latter two malignancies can cause marked swelling in the lymph nodes, salivary glands and present with severe headache.

Sjogren's syndrome is the second most common autoimmune rheumatic disease, but remains greatly under-diagnosed. The reasons for this are multiple: the presentation can be variable and vague, many patients do not seek immediate help, and some are misdiagnosed.

Sjögren's syndrome has a diverse presentation so it is not confined to one particular medical discipline. In the course of diagnosis, it is not uncommon for a patient to visit a number of different physicians including primary care doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists, and rheumatologists.

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