Primary Sjögren's syndrome with severe central nervous system disease

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1999 Aug;29(1):4-13. doi: 10.1016/s0049-0172(99)80033-x.


Objective: Central nervous system (CNS) involvement in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is controversial with regard to frequency, significance, and etiology.

Methods: We describe a young woman with pSS and severe CNS disease and review the literature on the pathophysiology, clinical significance, symptoms, diagnostic examinations, and treatment of CNS disease with concomitant pSS (CNS-SS).

Results: Our patient with pSS had a 5-month history of benign lymphadenopathy and myositis, after which she developed severe CNS disease, vasculitic lesions on her hands, and a neurogenic bladder attributable to spinal cord involvement. The diagnosis was based on the clinical picture and the results of a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, electroencephalography (EEG), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis. The disease did not respond to corticosteroids, but the administration of cyclophosphamide resulted in recovery. In the literature, the incidence of CNS-SS varies widely, from rare to incidence rates of 20% to 25%. The clinical picture is diverse, ranging from mild cognitive symptoms to fatal cerebrovascular accidents. The pathophysiology of CNS-SS is unclear, specific diagnostic methods are not available, and diagnosis is based on the clinical picture and a combination of examinations. MRI is the most sensitive test and cerebral angiography the most specific. CSF reflects involvement of the leptomeninges, and EEG is nonspecific. There are no controlled studies of the treatment of CNS-SS. Regimens for vasculitis are commonly used.

Conclusions: CNS-SS is uncommonly recognized and difficult to diagnose. Increasingly accurate and available diagnostic examinations will yield more information about the association of CNS disease with pSS.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Myositis / diagnosis
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / complications*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Urinary Bladder, Neurogenic / complications