What Causes Sicca Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Marilyn Fontenot
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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There is no documented biological cause for sicca syndrome, also known as Sjögren’s syndrome. Research has shown that an out-of-balance protein, which affects the lymphatic system, might be the leading culprit. In 1933, Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjögren’s research implied that chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease was a contributing factor. When the lymphatic system is out of balance, autoimmune disease occurs — a leading contributor to Sicca Syndrome. It wasn’t until 2003 that a connection to a particular water-channel protein and Sjögren’s Syndrome was announced, thanks to the efforts of Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon, who both won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discoveries.

It was Agre who discovered the water channels and mapped the genes as AQP1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Agre’s team of biologists examined gland biopsies from a group of patients with this condition and found mutant behavior in the mapped genes AQP1 and AQP5. AQP5 is the last membrane that water crosses to enter the body. It’s an important protein in creating saliva and tears; AQP1 circulates water to the blood system and combats toxic waste in glands. In patients, he found a decreased amount of AQP1 in the myoepithelia, found in the sweat gland, mammary gland, lacrimal gland and the salivary gland — glands that secrete a particular protein — and AQP5 wasn’t where it was supposed to be.


There is no cure for sicca syndrome, which typically is found in women age 30-60, although it can occur in males and all age groups. Sicca syndrome is conducive to dry eyes and dry mouth and is basically the destruction of glands that produce tears and saliva. The disease was first described in 1888, when Johann Milculicz discovered unusual swelling in the glands of a patient. When Sjögren diagnosed it in 1933, it was found that the body’s immune system was flawed and attacked its own cells and tissues through glands. With Sjögren’s discovery of chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease came the study of autoimmune disease.

The body is designed to create many lymphocyte cells, fueled by water, specifically so that the immune system can reject and fight harmful organisms, such as bacteria. When the lymphatic system, including the lymph nodes, spleen and thymus, is out of balance, autoimmune disease occurs. Lymphocyte cells use receptors that allow them to target dead cells and fight harmful organisms. When these receptors become defective, the body loses moisture, and autoimmunity disease is detected. Autoimmunity disease is categorized as sicca syndrome.

Sufferers usually experience pain in joints and muscles and are often fatigued. Death doesn’t occur from sicca syndrome, even though sufferers are at a higher risk of lymphoma. Problems with internal organs, such as the kidneys, blood vessels, liver and lungs, should be diagnosed and treated early. The disease is usually found in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis sufferers.


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