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Sicca Syndrome - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Pictures

Updated on December 30, 2013


What is Sicca Syndrome?

This is a health issue in which your exocrine glands are disrupted. Exocrine glands are what produce the secretions that are needed for the surface of the organs, not for the bloodstream like endocrine glands do. Some examples of exocrine glands are the saliva, sweat, and mammary glands in addition to numerous ones found inside the body. This health condition is also known as Sjogren’s syndrome and Mikulicz syndrome.

It is a systemic autoimmune disease. Although it can affect anyone of any age, gender, or race it is more predominant in females of middle age or older. In fact, approximately ninety percent of the cases reported have been in females. In the United States there are approximately four million people affected by Sicca syndrome, which makes it the number two in the most common rheumatic diseases. The term Sicca refers to the dryness of your mouth and eyes. This health condition is named after Henrik Samuel Conrad Sjogren who was a Swedish ophthalmologist.


With Sicca syndrome there are two outward symptoms a person might have. These two symptoms are:

  • A decrease in eye moisture and tear production that is noticeable Over time the dry eyes that develop can be painful and can mean a loss of your vision
  • A lack of saliva production that is noticeable and as the dryness escalates you will usually notice it is affecting the ability to swallow along with causing damage to the tissues of the interior of your mouth. When you have dry mouth you will feel the need to constantly to re-hydrate. The urge to constantly re-hydrate can range from mild annoyance to a constant necessity.

Other symptoms that a person might experience with Sicca syndrome may include:

  • It can, over time, cause your skin to dry out and make the top layer of your skin dry and become easily irritated.
  • Your interior organs can also be at risk because with the decline of your exocrine glands it is hard to produce the moisture that these organs need to function properly. Some of the key organs this disorder can affect are your liver, pancreas, brain, and kidney.
  • Your lungs can also become adversely affected.
  • Chronic bronchitis

What Sicca syndrome does lack is symptoms of arthritis although this is a rheumatic disorder.


Your exocrine glands not only produce but also release hormones into your duct glands. When you have Sicca syndrome it prevents both of these functions of your exocrine glands which throws the normal balance between the endocrine glands and the hormones that the exocrine produce out of balance. The underlying cause is the immune system is not functioning properly. Your immune cells start to attack the cells of your exocrine glands causing them to slowly fail in providing the right levels of hydration throughout your body. As Sicca syndrome moves into the later stages this is when you start to see the outward symptoms which are usually mild at first and then become worse. Another cause, or trigger, of Sicca syndrome is having one of the various rheumatic disorders that cause the dysfunction of your immune system. There are other cases in which the reason for Sicca syndrome to happen is not known. At times Sicca syndrome will frequently occur secondary to rheumatoid arthritis.


In order to diagnosis Sicca syndrome your physician will order a blood test to be done. This test will measure the amount of antibodies that are found in your bloodstream. The physician can also measure the production of your tears in order to determine if the level of production is normal or below normal of the safe amount. They can also do a biopsy of the gland that is affected.


At this time there is no known cure for Sicca syndrome or treatment for permanent gland secretion restore ability. The treatment that is used will focus on making up for the failure of your exocrine glands along with making sure that the organs of your body are keep well hydrated. For the dry eyes you can use over-the-counter artificial tears or your physician may prescribe antibiotic artificial tears if it is a really severe case. To help increase the flow of saliva your physician may prescribe medications such as cevimeline or pilocarpine. There are other various medications that help to protect your internal organs for any complications that could arise from having Sicca syndrome.


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