Patient Presents With..

According to E-Medicine/Article 332125, the clinical presentation of Sjogren’s Syndrome is described below:

The clinical presentation of Sjögren syndrome may vary. The onset is insidious. It usually starts in women aged 40-60 years, but it also can affect men and children. The first symptoms in primary Sjögren syndrome can be easily overlooked or misinterpreted, and diagnosis can be delayed for as long as several years.

Xerophthalmia (dry eyes) and xerostomia (dry mouth) are the main clinical presentations in adults. Bilateral parotid swelling is the most common sign of onset in children.

Extraglandular involvement in Sjögren syndrome falls into 2 general categories: periepithelial infiltrative processes and extraepithelial extraglandular involvement. Periepithelial infiltrative processes include interstitial nephritis, liver involvement, and bronchiolitis and generally follow a benign course.

Extraepithelial extraglandular involvement in Sjögren syndrome is related to B-cell hyperreactivity, hypergammaglobulinemia, and immune complex formation and includes palpable purpura, glomerulonephritis, and peripheral neuropathy. These latter manifestations occur later in the course of Sjögren syndrome and are associated with a higher risk of transformation to lymphoma.[4]

Symptoms of Sjögren syndrome can decrease the patient’s quality of life in terms of its physical, psychological, and social aspects.

Sicca symptoms (dry eyes and dry mouth)

Although dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms in patients with Sjögren syndrome, most patients who report these symptoms have other underlying causes. The incidence of sicca symptoms increases with age. Indeed, more than one third of elderly persons have sicca symptoms. Whether this is part of the normal aging process (associated with fibrosis and atrophy observed on some lip biopsy studies) or is due to the accumulation of associated illnesses and medications is unclear.[29]

Common medications that can cause sicca symptoms in any age group include antidepressants, anticholinergics, beta blockers, diuretics, and antihistamines. Anxiety can also lead to sicca symptoms. Women who use hormone replacement therapy may be at increased risk of dry eye syndrome.[30]

Patients may describe the effects dry mouth in the following ways:

  • Inability to eat dry food (eg, crackers) because it sticks to the roof the mouth
  • Tongue sticking to the roof of the mouth
  • Putting a glass of water on the bed stand to drink at night (and resulting nocturia)
  • Difficulty speaking for long periods of time or the development of hoarseness
  • Higher incidence of dental caries and periodontal disease
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Difficulty wearing dentures
  • Development of oral candidiasis with angular cheilitis, which can cause mouth pain

Dry eyes may be described as red, itchy, and painful. However, the most common complaint is that of a gritty or sandy sensation in the eyes. Symptoms typically worsen throughout the day, probably due to evaporation of the already scanty aqueous layer. Some patients awaken with matting in their eyes and, when severe, have difficulty opening their eyes in the morning. Blepharitis can also cause similar morning symptoms.


Patients with Sjögren syndrome may have a history of recurrent parotitis, often bilateral. Although in some patients the parotid glands become so large that the patients report this as a problem, more often the examining physician discovers them.

Cutaneous symptoms

Nonvasculitic cutaneous manifestations in Sjögren syndrome include dryness, eyelid dermatitis, pruritus, and erythema annulare.[31]

Cutaneous vasculitis, such as palpable purpura, develops in some patients with Sjögren syndrome, especially those with hypergammaglobulinemia or cryoglobulinemia.[31, 32] Raynaud phenomenon is observed in approximately 20% of patients.

Pulmonary symptoms

Patients with Sjögren syndrome can develop dryness of the tracheobronchial mucosa (xerotrachea), which can manifest as a dry cough.[33] Less often, patients develop dyspnea from an interstitial lung disease that is typically mild.[33, 34] Patients may develop recurrent bronchitis or even pneumonitis (infectious or noninfectious).

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Dryness of the pharynx and esophagus frequently leads to difficulty with swallowing (deglutition), in which case patients usually describe food becoming stuck in the upper throat.[33]

Lack of saliva may lead to impaired clearance of acid and may result in gastroesophageal reflux and esophagitis.

Abdominal pain and diarrhea can occur. Rarely, patients develop acute or chronic pancreatitis, as well as malabsorption due to pancreatic insufficiency. However, caution is advised when interpreting laboratory results because an elevated amylase level may arise from the parotid gland.

In patients with gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection should be sought because of its association with gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphomas.[35]

Patients with Sjögren syndrome are at increased risk for delayed gastric emptying, which can cause early satiety, upper abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.[36]

Cardiac symptoms

Pericarditis and pulmonary hypertension, with their attendant symptomatology, can occur in Sjögren syndrome.[37] Orthostatic symptoms related to dysfunction of autonomic control of blood pressure and heart rate is associated with increased severity of Sjögren syndrome.[38]

Neurologic symptoms

The occurrence of central nervous system (CNS) and spinal cord involvement in Sjögren syndrome is estimated by various studies to be 8-40%, with manifestations including myelopathy, optic neuropathy, seizures, cognitive dysfunction, and encephalopathy.[24, 39, 40] Attempts must be made to distinguish other causes of these symptoms, including concomitant SLE, multiple sclerosis, cerebrovascular disease, and Alzheimer disease.

Sensory, motor, or sensorimotor peripheral neuropathy, often subclinical, can be detected in up to 55% of unselected patients with Sjögren syndrome.[41] Symptoms of distal paresthesias may be present. Cranial neuropathies can develop, particularly trigeminal neuropathy or facial nerve palsy. Mononeuritis multiplex should prompt a search for a vasculitis.

Progressive weakness and paralysis secondary to hypokalemia due to underlying renal tubular acidosis can occur and is potentially treatable.[42]

Renal symptoms

Renal calculi, renal tubular acidosis, and osteomalacia, nephogenic diabetes insipidus, and hypokalemia can occur secondary to tubular damage caused by interstitial nephritis, the most common form of renal involvement in Sjögren syndrome.

Interstitial cystitis, with symptoms of dysuria, frequency, urgency, and nocturia, is strongly associated with Sjögren syndrome.[43, 44]

Glomerulonephritis can be caused by Sjögren syndrome but is uncommon and is usually attributable to another disorder, such as SLE or mixed cryoglobulinemia.

Additional symptoms

Nasal dryness can result in discomfort and bleeding. Patients may also have a dry vagina, which can lead to dyspareunia, vaginitis, and pruritus.

Sjögren syndrome is associated with a wide variety of other disorders. Therefore, a careful review of systems is needed to detect problems such as RA, SLE, scleroderma, polymyositis, chronic active hepatitis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, primary biliary cirrhosis,[45] and autoimmune thyroid disease.[46] Patients with Sjögren syndrome may report fatigue, joint pain, and, sometimes, joint swelling.

Women with Sjögren syndrome may have a history of recurrent miscarriages or stillbirths, and women and men may have a history of venous or arterial thrombosis. These are related to the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies (eg, lupus anticoagulant or anticardiolipin antibodies).

Secondary Sjogren syndrome

Secondary Sjögren syndrome appears late in the course of the primary disease. However, in some patients, primary Sjögren syndrome may precede SLE by many years. Secondary Sjögren syndrome is usually mild, and sicca symptoms are the main feature. Unlike patients with primary Sjögren syndrome, persons with the secondary type have significantly fewer systemic manifestations. These manifestations include the following:

  • Salivary gland swelling
  • Lung involvement
  • Nervous system involvement
  • Renal involvement
  • Raynaud phenomenon
  • Lymphoproliferative disorders

In secondary Sjögren syndrome, symptoms of the primary disease predominate. Secondary Sjögren syndrome does not modify the prognosis or outcome of the basic disease. Polyarteritis nodosa and Sjögren syndrome may also coexist, perhaps best viewed as an overlap syndrome.[47]

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