Sjogren's Syndrome

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. I am a 55-year-old female. I was diagnosed with Sjogren's disease about four years ago. From what I see, not much if anything, is being done to research this disease. But I have been told that over four million people have Sjogren's; I would appreciate any information you can give me about it.

A. Sjogren's syndrome is a chronic immune-mediated disease that involves the lacrimal and salivary glands. The patient's own lymphocytes (the white blood cells) attack these glands and thus this is an autoimmune disease. The major symptoms include dry eyes and dry mouth such that it is described as "having sand in the eyes." It is more common in older people; two to five percent of persons older than 60 years are thought to have this disease.

A genetic link has been established and most patients with this disease have a particular sequence in the DQB1 gene. Patients with Sjogren's are also at a higher risk of developing other immunologic disorders including types of lymphoma. There is considerable research being done in this area, since this prevalence of the disease will likely increase with the aging population.

A rheumatologist would be the best type of physician to treat this disease. The American Society of Rheumatology should be able to direct you to a knowledgeable physician in your area.