Self-Care for Sjögren’s Syndrome

Self-Care for Sjögren's Syndrome

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. It may occur along with other health problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.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 antihistamines, diuretics, and some antidepressants.
  • 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.

Respiratory tract

  • Place a humidifier (and an air purifier, if
    you feel it helps) in your home and at work to increase your
    comfort.
  • Use
    nasal spray made of water and salt (saline) to help a
    dry nose or nasal congestion.

Vagina

It is common for women with Sjögren's
syndrome to experience vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.

Vaginal moisturizing products help to replenish natural moisture and
relieve discomfort. These products include:

  • Replens, a nonhormonal vaginal moisturizer
    that lasts for hours or even days.
  • K-Y Silk-e.
  • Vagisil
    Personal Moisturizer.

Vaginal lubricants can make intercourse more comfortable
for you by relieving the friction you might experience if you have vaginal
dryness. But vaginal lubricants do not add moisture to the vagina and are not
useful for everyday moisturizing. Look for a water-based lubricant instead of
an oil-based lubricant, which can interfere with the vagina's natural cleansing
process. Vaginal lubricants include:

  • Astroglide.
  • Wet Lubricant
    Gel.
  • K-Y Jelly.
  • Maxilube.
  • Surgilube.

Stomach

  • Take a nonprescription antacid or acid
    reducer, such as Pepcid or Zantac, when needed, to reduce
    heartburn. Be careful when you take over-the-counter antacid medicines. Many of these medicines have aspirin in them. Read the label to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much aspirin can be harmful.
  • Raise the head of your bed 6
    inches to reduce the backflow (reflux) of stomach acid into your
    esophagus when you sleep.
  • See your doctor if you have heartburn or
    reflux that does not respond to self-care.

Energy (reducing fatigue)

  • Listen to your body. Alternate rest with
    exercise. Gradually doing more exercise may help lower your
    fatigue.
  • Limit medicines that might make you feel sleepy, such as
    those used to treat anxiety, colds, or pain. But do not stop or change your
    medicine usage before talking with your doctor.
  • Don't skip meals,
    especially breakfast. Improving your diet may increase your energy level.
  • Reduce your use of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, which tend to
    contribute to fatigue.

Comfort (relieving inflammation and pain)

  • Try daily gentle exercise—swimming in a warm
    pool may be good if your joints ache—and get plenty of rest every night to
    relieve aches.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take
    nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
    aspirin or ibuprofen, which can help reduce mild swelling and pain. Acetaminophen
    (such as Tylenol) can also help with pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. See a doctor for
    severe swelling and pain in the glands, joints, and muscles, which may require
    a different medicine or further evaluation.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofFebruary 26, 2018

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