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Sjögren’s syndrome

An autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks glands that produce saliva, tears and sweat

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which immune cells destroy the mucus-producing glands in the body, causing dry eyes and mouth as well as swelling of the face and neck glands. It can occur by itself (known as primary Sjögren’s syndrome), or together with other autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (known as secondary Sjögren’s syndrome).

About 90 percent of people diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome are women and diagnosis generally occurs between the ages of 40 and 50. Like many autoimmune diseases, people with Sjögren’s syndrome are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, potentially due to ongoing inflammation. Sjögren’s syndrome can also lead to the development of neonatal heart block in unborn children whose mothers have the disease.

Although the specific cause of Sjögren’s syndrome is yet to be determined, there appears to be a genetic influence. It tends to occur more commonly in families that have other autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus, scleroderma or mixed connective tissue disease). It is also thought that several factors can trigger the disease – including viral infections, hormones and stress.

For more information about Sjögren’s syndrome, visit HealthDirect .

Sjögren’s syndrome research at Garvan

Garvan Institute is home to HOPE Research, one of the largest immunology research programs in Australia. We’re looking to identify rogue immune cells in patients’ blood, which are thought to drive the immune system to attack the body.

Initial findings from our research on Sjögren’s syndrome are being used as a model to study 35 other immune diseases. If demonstrated, this has the potential to unlock better and targeted treatments for the more than 12% of people worldwide living with chronic autoimmune conditions.