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It seems to me that the Moisture Seekers Newsletter, published by the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, just keeps getting better and better.
I just received the October 2011 edition in my mailbox, and this issue is packed with great information. I especially enjoy the Q and A sections since the questions are all very pertinent and the answers written by medical experts. You can receive the Moisture Seekers newsletter for free by becoming a member of the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, which is as easy as going to their website, here.
As the mom of two daughters, I read this particular question and answer with great interest:
Question: I understand that autoimmune diseases can occur in families and I am concerned that my daughters may develop Sjogren's or another autoimmune disease. What is the recommendation for testing for autoimmune diseases?
Answer: Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR: The second question is the easier to answer. NO routine screening is helpful for the "future, potential" risk of developing Sjogren's. The most helpful thing is to be familiar with the myriad of potential symptoms/signs of Sjogren's and related autoimmune diseases/disorders. If any concerning signs develop, then one can start the investigative process. As someone with Sjogren's, you probably have experienced that this is not often a simple, straightforward process. There is no reason to be over-worried, as it is not highly likely that your daughters would develop the same autoimmune process as you.
Yes, there is a genetic component for all autoimmune diseases. However, it is very dilute because multiple genes (polygenetic) are involved. Historically, the HLA-DR3 (histocompatability) type has had the tightest connection with Sjogren's. HLA-DQ1/DQ2 has some association with more severe Sjogren's. Also, genes are modified by the environment, medications, viruses, etc. thus adding even more complexity to the susceptibility of autoimmunity. This process currently is an active area for research and is referred to as "Epigenetics" (gene modification).
The strongest genetic association is actually just the increased risk of developing autoimmune reactions in general. If a family member has Sjogren's, then there is a ~ 30 - 35% chance of developing an autoimmune disorder (PMID (Pub Med) # 12453311). Furthermore, it is usually some other disease, not the same on the the family member has.
Worrying will not help or change anything for your daughters. We know stress (different for different people) can trigger the immune system in a way to start an autoimmune process or make it worse. This is a further reason to be informed but not worry about it.