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Self-Care for Sjögren's Syndrome

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Topic Overview

Sjögren's syndrome is a disease that causes dry eyes and dry mouth. It can also affect your skin, lungs, and vagina and your energy level. The following steps and treatments can be very helpful in relieving your symptoms and improving the quality of your life. Getting plenty of rest, eating well, and doing mild exercise every day also play an important role in successful home treatment of this condition.

Eyes

  • Use artificial teardrops throughout the day. Artificial tears come in different formulas, so if one type doesn't help, try another. Try to use preservative-free drops, which are less irritating to the eyes. Artificial tears are available in single-dose packets, which help to avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Use lubricating ointments at night. Lubricants are thicker and last longer than artificial tears, so there is less burning, dryness, and itching when you wake up in the morning. Be aware that nighttime lubricants may temporarily blur your vision when you first apply them.
  • Avoid medicines that are known to cause dry eyes, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and diuretics.
  • Protect your eyes from wind, breezes, and drafts.
  • Avoid smoke.
  • Keep eye makeup away from your eyes.
  • Use wraparound sunglasses to better protect your eyes from the sun, wind, and grit.

Mouth

  • Drink fluids throughout the day to keep your mouth moist. Keep water by your bedside at night. But be aware that drinking large amounts of water does not reduce mouth dryness and causes excessive urination during the night. Try drinking small sips of water and rinsing your mouth frequently. Sucking on ice chips can also help.
  • Use artificial saliva substitutes (mouthwash or spray), which coat the mouth.
  • Avoid medicines that are known to cause a dry mouth, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and diuretics.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day and after meals with fluoride toothpaste, and floss your teeth every day.
  • Make frequent visits to the dentist to prevent and treat tooth decay.
  • Use antifungal medicines to treat thrush, a yeast infection that develops in the mouth.
  • Use sugar-free gum or candies such as lemon drops that naturally stimulate saliva production. (Sugar can increase your risk for cavities and yeast infections.)

Sjögren's syndrome causes dry mouth, which in turn can make it hard to swallow pills. In some cases, your pharmacist can crush the pills and put each dose in a capsule. Then you can mix the contents of the capsule with a teaspoonful of jam, jelly, or gelatin for easier swallowing. Be sure to take all the food in order to get the full dose of medicine.

Skin

  • Use moisturizing skin creams or ointments throughout the day.
  • Shower instead of taking a bath. Use only moisturizing soaps.
  • After showering, pat off excess water, leaving the skin moist. Then, replenish the moisture in your skin by applying a skin cream or ointment.
  • Your skin may be extra sensitive to the sun. Avoid the midday sun, from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cover your skin when you are outside-for example, wear long pants and long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats-and use SPF 30 or stronger sunscreen. Many experts recommend using sunscreen with SPF 50. For more information, see the Prevention section of the topic Sunburn.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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