New-onset chest pain, especially in older individuals, can be quite worrisome.
However, if you have Sjogren’s syndrome, you may be wondering if this autoimmune disease can somehow cause chest pain.
Sjogren’s syndrome can develop at any age.
The immune system initially attacks the moisture-secreting glands in the mouth (salivary) and eyes (tear ducts), resulting in dry mouth and dry eyes.
Other symptoms include a persistent cough, dry skin, joint pain or stiffness and extended fatigue.
Men can be affected, but the disorder is more common in women and can also cause vaginal dryness. Sjogren’s can also affect the nerves, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Sjogren’s Syndrome and Chest Pain
Chest pain has a multitude of causes, ranging from harmless to life threatening.
And Sjogren’s syndrome can be one of those causes.
“Rarely there is serositis such as pleuritis or pericarditis,” says Stella Bard, MD, a board certified rheumatologist with 20+ years of experience.
There may also be pleural effusion, adds Dr. Bard.
- Pleuritis: inflammation of the lining of the lungs.
- Pleural effusion: fluid buildup between the layers of tissue that line the chest and lung cavity.
- Pericarditis: inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (pericardium) that’s around the heart.
- Serositis: a broader term meaning inflammation of a serous membrane, of which the pleura and pericardium are two.
Dr. Bard explains, “The lining around the heart and lungs becomes inflamed, causing its two layers to rub against each other — and that causes pain when you breathe in and out.
“The pleuritic pain lessens or stops when you hold your breath.”
These issues in the chest cavity can develop during the clinical course of primary SS.
But why would Sjogren’s lead to these issues in the first place?
“It is an autoimmune reaction where those tissue linings around heart and lungs become inflamed, because the immune system attacks them,” says Dr. Bard.
It’s not known what percentage of people with Sjogren’s syndrome experience chest discomfort that’s a direct result of this disorder. However, it’s uncommon.
In fact, one must keep in mind that a person with Sjogren’s syndrome may, by coincidence, have another disease process or condition that’s causing chest pain, such as inflammation (not related to SS) of the cartilage in the ribcage; a strained muscle or muscle spasm; acid reflux; coronary artery disease or a respiratory infection.
Unexplained chest pain that persists or that’s brought on by physical exertion needs prompt evaluation.
Dr. Bard is an ABMS board certified rheumatologist with 20+ years’ experience. Rheumatologists often deal with whole-body problems due to the diseases they treat; patients find solutions to problems they didn’t originally come in for such as body aches and poor sleep. Dr. Bard uses cutting edge and natural remedies to achieve remarkable results with her patients.
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.