Sjogren’s Syndrome: What is it and why am I being tested for it?

Another test that sometimes comes up when you visit a neurologist is a blood test for Sjogren’s Syndrome.  If you are being seen for numbness and tingling, weakness, or even eye issues, the doctor takes into considerations your history and other symptoms and may check for Sjogren’s as one possible cause of your symptoms.  We asked Deborah Osgood, PA-C, one of Noran Clinic’s Allied Health Professionals, to tell us a little more about Sjogren’s.

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Sjogren’s disease is caused by an immune system disorder of the body where one’s own immune system attacks and destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva, thus causing the classic dry eyes and mouth of Sjogren’s disease. However, in some people with Sjogren’s disease, other vital body organs can be affected including the lungs, kidneys, liver, blood vessels and pancreas. Some other symptoms can present, such as joint pain, hoarseness of the voice, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision and constant eye discomfort.  It can also affect the nervous system, causing numbness and tingling, weakness or even pain in the extremities or face or back of the throat. That is why a neurologist may test a person’s blood for the antibodies to Sjogren’s disease. However, sometimes other immune system disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus can share some of the same antibodies and symptoms, so patients are typically referred to a rheumatologist for further evaluation and management of the disease if the initial blood tests are positive for Sjogren’s antibodies.  There is no cure but rather treatment is based on the person’s symptoms. How Sjogren’s disease manifests itself differs from person to person and the symptoms may wax and wane, as in other immune system disorders.

– Deborah Osgood, PA-C

Deborah Osgood MPAS, PA-C

Deborah Osgood MPAS, PA-C

For more information on Sjogren’s Syndrome, visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and stroke website at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sjogresn/sjogrens.htm.  For more resources, you can also visit the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation website at http://www.sjogrens.org/.

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