What is Sjogren’s Syndrome and how does it affect the heart?
Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder which affects various organ systems of the body. Autoimmune disease means the body’s immune (defense) mechanism fights against body’s own cells. Normal immune system does not fight against one’s own cells. Most important features of Sjogren’s Syndrome are dryness of the eyes and mouth, since it affects the tear glands and salivary glands.
Sjogren’s Syndrome in the mother has been associated with congenital complete heart block in the baby. Congenital complete heart block is a disorder in which the heart beat is unduly slow in a new born baby. This is because antibodies in the mother’s blood cross the placenta (connection between the baby and the mother in the womb) and reach the baby’s heart and changes the function of the conduction system of the heart. Conduction system of the heart is similar to an electrical circuit which transmit tiny electrical signals from the upper chambers (atria) of the heart to the lower pumping chambers (ventricles) of the heart. This conduction from the atria to the ventricles is impaired in congenital complete heart block. Hence the ventricles contract at a very slow rate. Congenital complete heart block in the fetus may be mistaken for fetal distress due to the slow heart rate. Prenatal glucocorticoid administration may prevent the development of complete heart block in the fetus.