Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects moisture-producing glands such as the salivary glands and tear ducts, or, more rarely, bowels, lungs, thyroid, liver or pancreas. It affects 1 million people in the United States, 90 percent of whom are women. It can develop on its own, or in conjunction with another disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis or lupus.
Normally, the immune system kicks in when it detects the presence of a foreign body like a virus. With an autoimmune disorder, however, the immune system kicks in even when no foreign body is present. The immune system then begins attacking parts of the body that are supposed to be there. In the case of Sjogren’s syndrome, it attacks the moisture ducts. The most common areas affected are the eyes and mouth, but Sjogren’s syndrome can also attack the nose, skin, vaginal area, or internal organs.