Sjögren's Syndrome Treatment
Once you’ve been diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, you and your doctors will develop a plan that meets your needs; your Sjögren’s syndrome treatment will depend largely on the extent and severity of your symptoms. Many symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter products. Others may require prescription medications and minor surgical procedures.
Some individuals will only experience dry eyes and mouth, while others will have systemic symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, fatigue and joint pain. In a minority of patients, the disease can also affect blood vessels and internal organs such as the lungs and kidneys.
Currently there is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome. Researchers continue to explore ways to decrease the complications through studies that include finding better methods to gauge disease activity and severity and testing new medications.
Treating Dry Eyes and Eye Inflammation Caused by Sjögren’s Syndrome
Many people can treat their dry eyes with artificial tears during the day and a gel at night. Some patients may have eyelid inflammation (blepharitis) and benefit from the use of hot compresses and eyelid cleansers, and gentle eyelid massage to relieve blocked oil glands in the eyelids. Others may require prescription eye drops.
Some patients find it helpful to wear wraparound sunglasses or goggles, or to add shields to the sides of their glasses. These options help reduce tear evaporation by protecting your eyes from wind, air and airborne particles.
For more significant cases of dry eye, your doctor might recommend punctal occlusion. In this simple procedure, an ophthalmologist inserts tiny plugs into your tear ducts to block them. Tears stay on your eyes longer, which helps keep them moist.
Treating Dry Mouth and Related Symptoms Caused by Sjögren’s Syndrome
As with treating dry eye, there are over-the-counter options for dry mouth symptoms. They include:
- Sucking on sugarless candy and chewing sugar free gum. If you don’t find that effective, prescription medications are available that can help increase your saliva production.
- Sipping water during the day is the easiest way to ease dry mouth. An artificial saliva product, such as a spray or lozenge, may also help.
People with Sjögren’s syndrome are at increased risk for cavities and should be sure to:
- Brush and floss after meals and snacks.
- See a dentist at least twice each year.
- Talk with the dentist about the use of fluoride treatments that can prevent cavities. The options include daily use of a prescription fluoride toothpaste, a fluoride rinse, or a professional fluoride treatment after a dental cleaning.
You may also have an increased risk of contracting fungal infections of the mouth, which can be treated with prescription anti-fungal pills or medicated troches that dissolve slowly in your mouth. If you wear dentures, be sure to disinfect them every night.
Treating Other Symptoms Related to Sjögren’s Syndrome
People with Sjögren’s syndrome may experience dryness in other areas, including the lips, the nose, the skin and the vagina.
- For dry lips, petroleum jelly and lip balms can help.
- Blocked nasal passages and a dry nose increase your need to breathe through the mouth, which can make your dry mouth worse. Saline nasal sprays can be helpful. Be sure to treat other causes of congestion, such as allergies and sinus infections, quickly.
- Dry skin usually improves when you use skin lotion regularly and throughout the day, especially after baths or showers.
- Some women experience vaginal dryness, especially after menopause. Using products made for vaginal dryness, such as vaginal moisturizers, estrogen cream, vitamin E oil, hyaluronic acid suppositories and vaginal lubricants can be useful. Also, applying adequate artificial lubrication to both partners can help prevent painful intercourse.
Saliva helps reduce the acidity of your stomach, so acid reflux can be common in people with Sjögren’s syndrome. Normally, people can treat their symptoms the same way as those without Sjögren’s syndrome, such as watching what they eat and using nonprescription medications.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are recommended for the joint pain that may accompany Sjögren’s syndrome. Low-dose steroids such as prednisone can also reduce joint pain. Medications called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, which slow the effects of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, have been used successfully to treat Sjögren’s syndrome joint pain.