Peripheral neuropathy (PN), which is the damage of nerves that causes weakness, numbness and pain often in the hands and feet, accompanies up to half of the cases of Sjögren's syndrome. PN develops when nerves in the body’s extremities, such as the hands and feet, become damaged. PN symptoms can be similar to Sjögren’s, which can make it more difficult for care providers to treat.
A study titled Analysis of clinical features and risk factors of peripheral neuropathy in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome was published in the European Journal of Medical Research in Jan 2023. The study aimed to (1) understand whether immunosuppressive therapy in patients with Sjögren's and PN can improve symptoms and (2) explore independent risk factors.
This cohort study took place in the Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Wuhan No. 1 Hospital. Data from 60 consecutive patients with Sjögren’s, admitted from January 2014 to June 2020, were collected. The cohort was divided into a PN group (N = 15) and a non-PN group (N = 45), that were otherwise comparable in all characteristics. Participants in the PN group completed baseline assessments – including neurological, laboratory and disease activity. They were then offered immunosuppressant therapy, followed for an average of two years, and then re-assessed.
Patients with PN had Sjögren’s longer than those without PN, and the incidence of Raynaud's phenomenon, anti-SS antibody, rheumatoid factor and hyperglobulinaemia was higher in patients with PN than in those without. The main analysis showed that anti-SS antibody, rheumatoid factor and hyperglobulinaemia were also independent risk factors for PN. Fourteen patients with PN were treated with immunosuppressants, one patient declined treatment. The clinical symptoms and motor function of 10 out of the 14 patients (71%) who were treated with glucocorticoids and other immune supressing medications were improved.
PN is a common complication in Sjögren’s patients. The study found that patients with PN had a longer course of Sjögren’s and more risk factors. Immunosuppressive therapy seems to support partial remission and improves function. More work needs to be done in a larger sample and on the pathways that result in PN for patients with Sjögren’s require further exploration.
Compiled by Ellen Wang