Some symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome can be eased by simple self-help measures:
- Wear wraparound sunglasses or glasses with side shields to help keep moisture in your eyes.
- Keep your eyelids and the surrounding areas clean to maximise oil secretion from glands in your eyelids.
- Avoid contact lenses because they’ll be uncomfortable if your eyes are dry.
- Consider wearing tinted glasses if you find strong lights uncomfortable.
- Increase the humidity in your home. This can help eye symptoms and a dry cough. Humidifiers, large-leaved houseplants or bowls of water all help to increase humidity in a room.
- Avoid strong soaps if you have dry, itchy skin. Water-based creams and emollients may be helpful.
- Wear sunscreen (factor 15 or higher) if your skin is sensitive to the sun or comes out in a rash.
- Wear warm gloves if you experience Raynaud’s phenomenon. Exercise will help by improving your circulation, but you should avoid smoking because it’s bad for the circulation.
- Good dental hygiene is recommended for any oral symptoms.
You should exercise to keep mobile, particularly if you have symptoms in your joints. You’ll need to find the right balance between rest and exercise, especially if you also suffer from extreme tiredness. A physiotherapist will be able to give you advice on suitable exercises and increasing your activity level gradually.
Read more about exercise and arthritis and physiotherapy and arthritis.
Diet and nutrition
No special diet is recommended for Sjögren’s syndrome, but increasing the amount of fibre in your diet should help if you have abdominal pain or bowel problems. Cutting down on sweet food and drinks will reduce your risk of dental problems.
Remember that alcohol, tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can be dehydrating. Sipping water or sucking ice cubes regularly can help to relieve the discomfort of a dry mouth.
Read more about diet and arthritis.
There isn’t scientific evidence that suggests any specific complementary medicine can ease the symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome.
If you have Raynaud’s phenomenon, taking vitamins may help to control your symptoms. The use of high-dose vitamins E and C, evening primrose oil, fish oils and ginger or Ginkgo Biloba can also help. If the vitamin regime doesn’t help within 3 months you should stop taking them, but always consult your doctor before you try anything.
Read more about complementary medicine.
Sex and pregnancy
One less common symptom of Sjögren’s syndrome may be that you have a dry vagina, which can make sex painful. Lubricants such as KY Jelly or Astroglide should help and so can oestrogen creams.
Treatments for infections such as thrush are readily available from chemists.
People with Sjögren’s syndrome don’t usually have any increased problems during or after pregnancy. In about 2% of women who have anti-Ro and/or anti-La antibodies, these antibodies are passed on to the baby during pregnancy and cause symptoms in the baby after birth. These symptoms can include rashes and abnormal blood tests, but both settle within a few weeks to a few months as the mother’s antibodies are gradually lost from the baby’s blood. In some cases the antibodies affect the baby’s heart, causing it to beat slowly.
Remember that 98% of mothers with anti-Ro and anti-La have no problems with pregnancy, but if you know you have these antibodies you should mention this to your obstetrician because your baby’s heartbeat may need additional monitoring in the womb.
Read more about sex and arthritis and pregnancy and arthritis.
Arthritis Research UK recently awarded a grant for a study into developing patient-centred treatment to improve the daily lives of people with Sjögren’s syndrome.