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Fibromyalgia and Sjögren's Syndrome

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Around 3 to 5% of the world population suffers from a widespread painful disorder called fibromyalgia syndrome. Females are affected more often than males. At least 7 to 9 out of 10 people diagnosed are women.

There are multiple painful tender points all over the body and other symptoms like sleep disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, migraine, cognitive and memory dysfunction and fatigue that may severely disable the patient and interfere with daily functioning affecting quality of life.

For each individual the symptoms and time course are variable and may wax and wane with time, never really going away.

What is Sjögren's Syndrome?

Sjӧgren's disease or Sjögren's syndrome is an inflammatory autoimmune disease. The immune system normally protects the body from microbes and foreign invasions by germs. In autoimmune diseases the immune system fails to recognize self from non-self and attacks the body's own cells.

Sjögren's syndrome mainly affects glands like the salivary glands in the mouth. In this condition white blood cells called lymphocytes infiltrate the epithelium linings of the glands and thus decrease their normal secretions.

Patients commonly present with dry mouth, enlargement of the salivary glands and dry eyes. The disease also affects lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and muscles.

Sjögren's syndrome is also associated with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Fibromyalgia and Sjögren's Syndrome

Studies have explored the possibility of fibromyalgia and Sjögren's syndrome coexisting in a patient. Researchers have found that fibromyalgia is more common in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome who complain of fatigue as their main symptom.

Studies have shown that nearly 68% of patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome have fatigue as a major symptom. This is much higher than patients with lupus or SLE (around 50% patients with SLE have fatigue as their major symptom).

Fatigue is a common symptom in 12% patients who have both fibromyalgia and primary Sjögren's syndrome as diagnosed by set criteria.

In addition patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome also have severe sleep problems that are seen in a large majority of these patients.

Fatigue, as well as dryness of the mucous membranes within the mouth as seen in primary Sjögren's syndrome is commonly seen in patients with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia may present alone or in combination with other diseases like primary Sjögren's syndrome.

In patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome fibromyalgia has been found in 44 to 55% patients according to some studies.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 7, 2013

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