Sjögren’s Syndrome Can be Dangerous for Your Heart And Lungs

Pulmonary arterial hypertension common among Sjogrens Syndrome patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sjögren’s Syndrome is a chronic condition of the immune system that causes mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands to function improperly. Dry eyes and mouth are the most common symptoms of the condition but in some cases the disease can affect major organ function.

A recent study found that pulmonary arterial hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries in the lungs) is more common among patients with Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome.

The researchers discovered that the patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension were female, younger and had had Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome for a shorter amount of time.

"Get regular heart check-ups if you have Sjögren’s Syndrome."

The lead author of this study was Senol Kobak, MD, from the Department of Rheumatology at Sifa University in Izmir, Turkey.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a serious condition which is characterized by increased right ventricular pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance. It can cause heart failure, pulmonary edema, irregular heart beat, and even sudden death.

The study included 47 patients previously diagnosed with Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome (PSS).

'Primary' means that the patient does not have any other conditions affecting their immune system.

The average age of the participants was 48 years old and the average disease duration was five years.

The researchers took ultrasounds of the participants' hearts, measured their lung function and measured the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery (carries deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs).

The participants were also given a chest x-ray and a urine test.

All of the participants reported no exposure to environmental pollutants like silica and asbestos.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) was defined as having a systolic pulmonary artery pressure of 30 or more mmHg. Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

The findings showed that 11 (or 23 percent) of the participants had mostly mild, asymptomatic PAH.

The researchers discovered that the PAH participants were younger, all female and had had PSS for a shorter period of time.

Among the participants with PAH, the average age was 42 years old and the average duration of PSS was four years.

The average age of the participants with no PAH was 59 years old and the average duration of PSS was 10 years.

The findings revealed that no other factors were significantly associated with PAH in PSS patients.

Dr. Kobak and team concluded that future research using a larger study population from multiple care centers is needed due to conflicting data between this study and previous studies. They wrote that  it is possible that mild PAH may contribute to the high incidence of cardiovascular related deaths in pSS.

There were a couple limitations.

First, PAH was mild and asymptomatic in the participants with the condition. Second, PAH is typically diagnosed using cardiac catheterization — a procedure where a tube is threaded to the heart through a blood vessel in a limb or the neck — rather than using the ultrasound method, which is noninvasive.

This study was published on January 9 in Autoimmune Diseases.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 28, 2014
Last Updated:
March 29, 2014