Sjogren's Syndrome and Connective Tissue Disorders

Many complications are possible with Sjogren's syndrome, and connective tissue disorders are common among people with the disease. Some of these connective tissue disorders include polymyositis, Raynaud's phenomenon, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are also connections between Sjogren's syndrome and connective tissues disorders such as scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Sjogren's Syndrome and Connective Tissue Disorders: An Overview

Connective tissue is the framework of the body that supports organs and tissues. Examples are joints, muscles, bones, skin, blood vessel walls, and the lining of internal organs. Many connective tissue disorders are autoimmune diseases, and several are common among people with Sjogren's syndrome, including:
 
Polymyositis
Polymyositis is an inflammation of the muscles that causes weakness and pain, difficulty moving, and, in some cases, problems breathing and swallowing. If the skin is inflamed, too, it's called dermatomyositis. The disease is treated with corticosteroids and immunosuppressants.
 
Raynaud's Phenomenon
Raynaud's phenomenon causes blood vessels in the hands, arms, feet, and legs to constrict (narrow) when exposed to cold. The result is often pain, tingling, and numbness. When vessels constrict, fingers turn white. Shortly after that, they turn blue because of blood that remained in the tissue pools. When new blood rushes in, the fingers turn red. The problem is treated with medicines that dilate blood vessels. Raynaud's phenomenon usually occurs before dryness of the eyes or mouth.
 
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is severe inflammation of the joints that can eventually deform the surrounding bones (fingers, hands, knees, etc.). RA can also damage muscles, blood vessels, and major organs. Treatment depends on the severity of the pain and swelling, as well as which body parts are involved. Treatment may include:
 
  • Physical therapy
  • Aspirin
  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)
  • Steroids
  • Immunosuppressants.
     
Scleroderma
Scleroderma causes the body to accumulate too much collagen (a protein commonly found in the skin). The result is thick, tight skin and damage to muscles, joints, and internal organs, such as the:
 
  • Esophagus
  • Intestines
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Blood vessels.
 
Treatment is aimed at relieving pain and includes drugs, skin softeners, and physical therapy.
 

Sjogren's Syndrome Complications

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