Adapted from the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation (SSF)
antibody: Substance in the blood that is usually made in response to infection.
antinuclear antibodies (ANA): Autoantibodies directed against components in the nucleus of the cell. They are included in screening tests for lupus and other autoimmune diseases including Sjögren's syndrome.
arthritis: Inflammation of the joints.
autoimmunity: A state in which the body inappropriately produces antibodies against its own tissues.
B cell or B lymphocyte: A white blood cell that makes antibodies.
candidiasis: A condition due to an overgrowth of the yeast (fungus) Candida.
central nervous system: The brain and spinal cord.
cornea: The cornea is the eye's outermost layer. It is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. It is composed of several vital layers, all of which are functionally important. The surface layer, or epithelium, is covered by the tears, which lubricate and protect the surface.
corticosteroid: A hormone produced by the adrenal cortex gland. Natural adrenal gland hormones have powerful anti-inflammatory activity and are often used in the treatment of severe inflammation affecting vital organs.
cirrhosis: Liver disease.
exocrine gland: A gland that secretes outwardly through ducts and secretes moisture.
fibromyalgia: A complex chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress.
genetic factors: Traits inherited from parents, grandparents, and so on.
immunoglobulins (gamma globulins): The protein fraction of serum that are responsible for antibody activity. Measuring the immunoglobulin levels can sometimes be a guide to disease activity in some patients with Sjögren's syndrome.
immunosuppressive agents: A class of drugs that interferes with the function of cells in the immune system. Drugs used for chemotherapy, or to help prevent the immune system from attacking transplants, are generally immunosuppressive. These can sometimes be used to treat severe autoimmune disease. Also see lymphocyte.
keratoconjunctivitis sicca: Otherwise known as dry eye. The condition most frequently occurs in women in their forties and fifties. If it is associated with dry mouth and/or rheumatoid arthritis, the condition is referred to as Sjögren's syndrome.
lacrimal glands: Two types of glands that produce tears. The first type (the smaller of the two) is in the eyelid tissue and helps to produce tears needed from minute to minute. The main lacrimal glands are located just inside the bony tissue surrounding the eye and help to produce large amounts of tears.
lip biopsy: Is sometimes used to examine the salivary glands and can be used to help diagnose Sjögren's syndrome. The procedure consists of an incision on the inside surface of the lower lip (approximately 2 mm) and the excision of some of the minor salivary glands.
lymph: A fluid collected from the tissues throughout the body, which flows through the lymph nodes and eventually is added to the circulating blood.
lymphocyte: A type of white blood cell that helps to produce and regulate antibodies. Collections of lymphocytes are seen in the salivary glands of Sjögren's syndrome patients.
lymphoma: A severe increase of abnormal lymphocytes, manifested as cancer of the lymph glands. Although exceedingly rare, lymphoma can occur as a complication of severe Sjögren's syndrome.
nephritis: Inflammation of the kidneys.
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): Anti-inflammatory agents used to treat pain that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis and other joint disorders. Examples include ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®).
oral mucosa: The lining of the mouth.
oral soft tissue:Tongue, mucous lining of the cheeks, and lips.
otolaryngologist: Physician specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders. (ENT)
palate biopsy: A biopsy of the tissues on the inside of your jaw to sample the minor salivary glands in that region.
parasympathetic nervous system: The part of the autonomic nervous system whose functions include constriction of the pupils of the eyes, slowing of the heartbeat, and stimulation of certain digestive glands.
parotid glands: One of the three pairs of major salivary glands. They are located in front of the ear.
peripheral nerves: Nerves outside the central nervous system.
plaque: A thin, sticky film that builds up on the teeth, trapping harmful bacteria.
puncta: Small holes in the eyelids that normally drain tears. Patients with severe dry eye may benefit from punctal closure, a surgical procedure which allows maximal tear preservation.
rheumatoid arthritis: A form of arthritis characterized by inflammation of the joints, stiffness, swelling and pain, among other symptoms.
rheumatologist: A physician skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases.
Shirmer's test: The standard test to diagnose dry eye. Small pieces of filter paper are placed between the lower eyelid and eyeball and soak up the tears for five minutes. The amount of tears helps to provide a rough estimation of tear production. A smaller amount can be consistent with dry eye.
Sjögren's antibodies: Abnormal antibodies found in Sjögren's syndrome patients. These antibodies react with certain cells, and a test based on this principle can be helpful in the diagnosis of Sjögren's syndrome. See also SSA and SSB.
Sjögren's syndrome: A chronic autoimmune disorder where the immune cells attack and destroy the exocrine glands, which are the glands that prevent dryness and produce moisture needed in your mouth, skin, eyes, vaginal area, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestine) and respiratory tract (airway and lungs).
SSA: Sjögren's syndrome–associated antigen A (anti Ro).
SSB: Sjögren's syndrome–associated antigen B (anti La).
sublingual glands: One of the three pairs of major salivary glands. They are located in the floor of the mouth under the tongue.
submandibular glands: One of the three pairs of major salivary glands. They are located below the lower jaw.
systemic: Any process that involves multiple organ systems throughout the body.
thrush: An oral form of candidiasis (see definition above).
xerophthalmia: Dry eyes.
xerostomia: Dryness of the mouth caused by the lack of normal salivary secretions. It can occur in Sjögren's syndrome, diabetes, drug therapy and radiation therapy.