How much does Sjogren’s syndrome affect life span?

Sjogren’s syndrome may bring to mind simply that of chronic dry mouth and dry eyes, which don’t sound too serious.

Many people with Sjogren’s syndrome suffer only from dry mouth and dry eyes, and often experience joint pain.

However, some patients with Sjogren’s (pronounced show-grens) suffer more serious complications of this autoimmune disorder, which affects about two to four million Americans, with 90 percent of patients being female (for reasons not known).

Since Sjogren’s syndrome often affects joints, specialists in this disease are usually rheumatologists.

“Rheumatic diseases by in large cause pain and stiffness and don’t impose death threats,” says Ali D. Askari, MD, Professor of Medicine – Case Western Reserve University; Chief, Division of Rheumatology – University Hospitals Case Medical Center; Director, Rheumatology – University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

“In general, inflammatory states such as rheumatoid and lupus lead to more coronary artery disease and short life span.

“In Sjogren’s syndrome this matter is not settled (not well-studied), and the disease in general is benign but annoying, and people have their regular life expectancy.  By-and-large patients without complications live a normal life.”

However, living with just dry mouth and dry eyes can be arduous.

The reduced saliva flow predisposes a patient to:

  • a high risk of dental decay
  • bad breath
  • chapped lips
  • and a burning sensation in the lips, tongue and throat, not to mention difficulty swallowing food that necessitates sipping water before every mouthful of food.

Dr. Askari continues, “The development of lymphoma (cancer) occurs in less than 5 percent of patients having SS in which the life expectancy shortens.

“The undesired complications with Sjogren’s syndrome include a renal condition referred to as renal tubular acidosis in which more kidney stones are formed.

“Kidney failure, however, is rare and is due to inflammation of the cortex of the kidney, unlike lupus in which this complication is more frequent.”

Lupus is also an autoimmune disease that can affect the entire body.

“Patients with Sjogren’s syndrome could have lung inflammation with cough and shortness of breath which could affect life span expectancy.

“The most important rare complication in Sjogren’s syndrome is the inflammatory changes of the vessel walls, or vasculitis, which leads to the presence of a rash on the skin, and inflammatory changes within the different organ systems such as the kidneys, lungs and brain.

“In each complication mentioned, however, there are sufficient treatments available, which are effective and control the complications.”

Dr. Askari’s special interests include diseases of the muscles, fibromyalgia, general rheumatology, lupus and Sjögren’s syndrome.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 


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