Sjögren's is a systemic, autoimmune, rheumatic disease that can affect many different body parts, especially the moisture-producing glands, and cause widespread dryness and other serious problems. Although dry mouth and dry eyes are the most common symptoms, dryness can also occur in the nose, sinuses, ears, throat, skin, and, in women, the vagina. There is speculation that, in men with Sjögren's, the prostate might be affected similarly to other organs. These problems may interfere with work, social activities, and quality of life. Patients may notice irritation, a gritty feeling, or painful burning in the eyes; dry eyes are at increased risk for infection and susceptible to corneal damage if not treated. Dry mouth can lead to difficulty eating and swallowing dry foods. It can lead to dental cavities, chipping, breaking, and loss of teeth. Dry mouth may increase gingivitis (gum inflammation) and oral yeast infections (candida) that may cause pain and burning. Sjögren's frequently causes swelling of the parotid glands (the glands below the ears and run along the jawline). Dryness can increase infections in the eyes, mouth, sinuses, lungs, and vagina.
Sjögren's can also affect the joints, muscles, nervous system (central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, including the autonomic nervous system), gastrointestinal tract (including the pancreas and liver), skin, blood vessels, lungs, and kidneys. Joint pain and stiffness with mild swelling are common, even in those without rheumatoid arthritis. Rashes may occur, including inflammation of small blood vessels (vasculitis), most commonly on the lower legs. Sun-sensitive rash is more common on the back, chest, face, and arms. Peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness and tingling, especially in the feet, and can frequently pre-date symptoms of dryness.Fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep abnormalities are frequently reported symptoms.Patients should also be monitored for depression and anxiety. .
Sjögren's can be accompanied by other autoimmune connective tissue disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, autoimmune thyroid disease, antiphospholipid syndrome, sarcoidosis, and celiac disease. It can occasionally be confused with fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and a newly described disease called IgG4-related disease.