Causes of Sjogren's Syndrome


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Cause of Sjogren's Syndrome: Autoimmune disorder primarily of saliva and tear glands.

Cause of Sjogren's Syndrome: Normally, the immune system works to protect us from disease by destroying harmful invading organisms like viruses and bacteria. In the case of Sjögren's syndrome, disease-fighting cells attack the glands that produce tears and saliva (the lacrimal and salivary glands). Damage to these glands keeps them from working properly and causes dry eyes and dry mouth. 1

Normally, the immune system works to protect us from disease by destroying harmful invading organisms like viruses and bacteria. In the case of Sjögren's syndrome, disease-fighting cells attack the glands that produce tears and saliva (the lacrimal and salivary glands). Damage to these glands keeps them from working properly and causes dry eyes and dry mouth. 2

Cause details for Sjogren's Syndrome: Researchers think Sjögren's syndrome is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Several different genes appear to be involved, but scientists are not certain exactly which ones are linked to the disease since different genes seem to play a role in different people. For example, there is one gene that predisposes Caucasians to the disease. Other genes are linked to Sjögren's in people of Japanese, Chinese, and African American descent. Simply having one of these genes will not cause a person to develop the disease, however. Some sort of trigger must activate the immune system.

Scientists think that the trigger may be a viral or bacterial infection. It might work like this: A person who has a Sjögren's-associated gene gets a viral infection. The virus stimulates the immune system to act, but the gene alters the attack, sending fighter cells (lymphocytes) to the eye and mouth glands. Once there, the lymphocytes attack healthy cells, causing the inflammation that damages the glands and keeps them from working properly. These fighter cells are supposed to die after their attack in a natural process called apoptosis, but in people with Sjögren's syndrome, they continue to attack, causing further damage. Scientists think that resistance to apoptosis may be genetic.

The possibility that the endocrine and nervous systems play a role is also under investigation. 1

Researchers think Sjögren's syndrome is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Several different genes appear to be involved, but scientists are not certain exactly which ones are linked to the disease since different genes seem to play a role in different people. For example, there is one gene that predisposes Caucasians to the disease. Other genes are linked to Sjögren's in people of Japanese, Chinese, and African American descent. Simply having one of these genes will not cause a person to develop the disease, however. Some sort of trigger must activate the immune system.

Scientists think that the trigger may be a viral or bacterial infection. It might work like this: A person who has a Sjögren's-associated gene gets a viral infection. The virus stimulates the immune system to act, but the gene alters the attack, sending fighter cells (lymphocytes) to the eye and mouth glands. Once there, the lymphocytes attack healthy cells, causing the inflammation that damages the glands and keeps them from working properly. These fighter cells are supposed to die after their attack in a natural process called apoptosis, but in people with Sjögren's syndrome, they continue to attack, causing further damage. Scientists think that resistance to apoptosis may be genetic.

The possibility that the endocrine and nervous systems play a role is also under investigation. 2

Underlying condition causes of Sjogren's Syndrome: The list of possible underlying conditions (see also Misdiagnosis of underlying causes of Sjogren's Syndrome) mentioned in various sources as possible causes of Sjogren's Syndrome includes:

Sjogren's Syndrome as a symptom: Conditions listing Sjogren's Syndrome as a symptom may also be potential underlying causes of Sjogren's Syndrome. The list of conditions listing Sjogren's Syndrome as a symptom in our database includes:

Causes of Sjogren's Syndrome: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to causes of Sjogren's Syndrome:

Related information for causes of Sjogren's Syndrome: Further relevant information on causes of Sjogren's Syndrome may be found in the risk factors for Sjogren's Syndrome and underlying causes of Sjogren's Syndrome.

Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Questions and Answers About Sjögren's Syndrome: NIAMS
2. excerpt from Questions and Answers About Sj”gren's Syndrome: NIAMS

Last revision: June 16, 2003

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