Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys moisture-producing glands, such as tear glands and salivary glands. When Sjogren's syndrome occurs by itself, it is called primary Sjogren’s syndrome. When it occurs in the context of other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), it is called secondary Sjogren’s syndrome.

Sjogren’s is most common in women aged 40 to 60. Symptoms include dry eyes (sicca), dry mouth (xerostomia), difficulty swallowing, loss of taste and smell, swollen salivary glands, severe dental cavities caused by dry mouth, oral yeast infections (thrush), and vaginal dryness. Fatigue and joint pain may occur as well, ranging in intensity from mild to disabling. Sjogren's can also affect the kidneys, digestive tract, lungs, liver, pancreas, or other internal organs.

As with other autoimmune diseases, symptoms of Sjogren’s tend to wax and wane. The disease is diagnosed by blood tests as well as examination of the eyes and mouth. Treatment primarily involves use of artificial tears, artificial saliva, and vaginal lubricants to relieve dryness. In some cases, anti-inflammatory or immune suppressant drugs may be used.

N-acetyl Cysteine

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a specially modified form of the dietary amino acid cysteine. When taken orally, NAC helps the body make the important antioxidant enzyme glutathione. It is also thought to help loosen secretions, and for this reason it has been tried as a treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlledcrossover trial of 26 people with Sjogren’s syndrome, use of NAC at a dose of 200 mg 3 times per day improved eye-related symptoms.1 The supplement also showed some promise for mouth-related symptoms, but the effects were less clear-cut. While these are promising results, a much larger trial would be necessary to fully document the potential benefits of this treatment approach.

For more information, see the full NAC article.

Herb-Vitamin-Mineral Combination

A product containing vitamins and minerals as well as the herbs paprika, rosemary, peppermint, milfoil, hawthorn, and pumpkin seedhas been used in Scandinavia for many years as a treatment for various mouth-related conditions. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 44 people found that 4 months’ treatment with this combination improved some signs and symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome, including rate of salivary flow.4 A larger study is needed to fully explore the potential benefits of this treatment.