Duke rheumatologists are among the nation’s leading experts in the diagnosis and treatment of Sjögren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disorder that occurs when your white blood cells attack your saliva and tear glands. We work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that minimizes your symptoms and helps you live comfortably.
Advanced care for Sjögren’s syndrome
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your body’s immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce saliva and tears. The most common symptoms are dry mouth, dry eyes and sometimes dry skin. We work with you to reduce the effects of painful symptoms, and ensure you remain healthy and active. When appropriate, our rheumatology experts with with specialists throughout Duke to ensure you receive the most comprehensive care.
Choose Duke for your Sjögren’s syndrome treatment because we offer:
- Ongoing studies. Research is a hallmark of our program, and our doctors are helping to set national guidelines through their work. As our patient, you may have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial, testing the newest therapies on the market before they are made widely available.
- A team approach to care. Our rheumatologists work with multiple Duke specialists including ophthalmologists and otolaryngologists (ENT doctors), who offer expertise in managing the dryness of the eyes and mouth typically associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Nationally ranked program. Our rheumatology program is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Treatments may slow down the progression of the disease and manage your symptoms.
Alleviate dry eyes.
Reduces inflammation in the glands around the eyes and increases tear production.
Stimulate saliva flow.
Dry mouth may increase your risk for cavities, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and oral yeast infections (such as thrush). Your doctor will closely manage your dental care habits.
Complications or serious symptoms affecting your entire body may require drugs that suppress your immune system. These may include methotrexate or biologic agents that reduce inflammation.
Our goal is to diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome during its earliest stages in hopes of preventing or reducing complications. Though dry eyes and mouth may be early signs of Sjögren’s Syndrome, these symptoms may indicate another condition. Your evaluation will include a comprehensive review of your medical history, a comprehensive physical exam and the following tests:
Identify the presence of antibodies associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.
Assesses whether the eyes are producing enough tears to retain moisture. The test involves placing a special paper strip under the eyelids for several minutes to measure the amount of moisture. Your doctor may use numbing eye drops for the procedure.
Evaluates saliva production. Small glands that make saliva are located just below the inner surface of the lip and are most accessible. Your doctor will make a tiny incision in the inner lip after numbing the area. After removing a few of these minor glands, your doctor will close the incision with stitches that will be reabsorbed.