Sjögren's syndrome is a disorder of the immune system that often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis or lupus. In patients with autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells and tissues
The symptoms of pediatric Sjögren's syndrome are different than those seen in adults. For example, children rarely experience dry eyes and dry mouth—typical symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome in adults.
The most common symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome in children are unexplainable rashes on the skin and general fatigue and malaise (tiredness). Children with Sjögren's syndrome can also have the following symptoms:
- Joint pain, swelling and stiffness
- Swelling in the saliva glands—specifically those behind the jaw and in front of the ears
- Patches of dry skin
- Persistent dry cough
Some children with Sjögren's syndrome have no symptoms at all, and the condition is discovered when the doctor is looking for another condition, such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Sometimes, a newborn can be born with neonatal lupus syndrome, because his or her mother had Sjögren's antibodies in her system during the pregnancy. These antibodies may not produce symptoms in the mother, so she may not be aware that she has characteristics of Sjögren's until the antibodies are passed on to her child. Note that neonatal lupus does not lead to Sjögren's syndrome. Rather, it is the result of Sjögren's syndrome antibodies that the mother unknowingly shares with the baby before birth.
Diagnosis of Sjögren's Syndrome
Your child’s doctor may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose Sjögren's syndrome:
- Blood test. Your child’s doctor may perform a blood test to analyze the levels of various blood cells and look for the presence of Sjögren's antibodies, inflammation or problems with the liver and kidneys.
- Eye test. Your child’s doctor may use a Schirmer tear test to measure the dryness of the eye. This is a simple test in which the doctor uses a small piece of filter paper placed under the lower eyelid to measure tear production. Though children rarely complain of dry eyes associated with this condition, the eye test is a common, noninvasive test the pediatric rheumatologist can run if he or she suspects your child may have this condition.
- X-ray. Special types of X-ray imaging called sialogram (X-ray test that uses contrast dye) and salivary scintigraphy (noninvasive scan of the glands) may be used to check the function of the salivary glands.
- Biopsy. Your child’s doctor may perform a lip biopsy (collection of a small tissue sample) to check for the presence of clusters of inflammatory cells, which can be an indication of Sjögren's syndrome.
Treatment for Sjögren's syndrome depends on your child's symptoms. Your child’s doctor may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:
- Immunosuppressant medicines. Your child’s doctor may prescribe immunosuppressant medicines, such as methotrexate, to reduce the over activity of the immune system.
- Hydroxychloroquine. This medicine, used to treat malaria, is also often helpful for controlling the symptoms of Sjögren's.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Your child’s doctor may prescribe NSAIDs or other arthritis medications to help reduce joint swelling and pain.
- Steroid medicines. If your child has rashes associated with the condition, his or her doctor may prescribe topical or oral steroid medicines.
- Frequently drinking water. If your child complains of dry mouth, encourage him or her to drink frequent sips of water.
- Eye drops. Eye drops are an effective way to manage the discomfort of dry eyes caused by the condition. If eye drops do not help, surgery may be recommended to seal the tear ducts that drain tears from your child’s eyes, keeping the eyes more moist.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- Sjögren's syndrome is a condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues.
- The most common symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome in children are unexplainable skin rashes and overall fatigue.
- The treatment your child receives depends on the symptoms he or she is experiencing.
- Newborns can be born with neonatal lupus if their mother unknowingly shared Sjögren's antibodies during pregnancy. Children with neonatal lupus do not go on to develop Sjögren's syndrome.
Support Services & Resources
Support Services & Resources
Visit the trusted websites below to learn more about Sjögren's syndrome.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
Visit this website to learn more about Sjögren's syndrome, including its causes, treatments and support information.
This website provides a detailed clinical explanation of Sjögren's syndrome.
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