Sjgren syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes a major decrease in lubricating fluids, such as tears and saliva. An autoimmune disorder is one in which the person's body attacks its own tissues for unknown reasons.
What is going on in the body?
In Sjgren syndrome, the body's natural defense mechanisms invade and destroy
the moisture-producing glands in the body. These glands produce saliva, tears, and other lubricating fluids. Since the body produces less saliva and fewer tears, the eyes and mouth become dry. A person may have Sjgren syndrome alone or with other autoimmune disorders. These include rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Sjgren syndrome occurs in about 2 out of 10,000 people. People with Sjgren syndrome produce antibodies against the moisture-producing tissues in their own bodies for some unknown reason. Sjgren syndrome occurs in more women than men at a ratio of 9:1. It affects mostly middle-aged women but can occur in all ages. Thirty percent of people who have other autoimmune disorders also suffer from secondary Sjgren syndrome.
New research findings suggest that autoimmune disorders may be triggered by a transfer of cells between the fetus and the mother during pregnancy. The study involved women with scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder involving the skin. These women have more fetal cells in their blood decades after a pregnancy than women who don't have scleroderma. While further research is needed to substantiate these findings, the study does offer an explanation for the much higher incidence of autoimmune disorders in women than in men.