Sjögren’s Syndome (pronounced Show-grin’s)
A condition that affects parts of the body that produce fluids like tears and saliva. It usually starts in people aged 40-60years and is more common in women.
- burning, stinging or itchy eyes
- a feeling of grit or sand in your eyes
- sore, red and swollen eyelids
- discomfort when looking at lights
- sticky eyelids when you wake up
These symptoms may be worse when the air is dry or when you are somewhere that’s windy, smoky or air conditioned.
(Dry eyes can be caused by many conditions e.g. some medications such as amitriptyline)
- feeling like food gets stuck in your mouth or throat – especially dry food like crackers
- needing to drink water while eating to help you swallow food
- your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth
- a hoarse voice
- a smooth, red tongue
- a change in how food tastes
- dry, sore and cracked skin at the corners of your lips
- problems such as dental decay and oral thrush
Other symptoms include:
- dry, itchy skin
- severe exhaustion
- vaginal dryness in women, which can make sex painful
- rashes (especially after being out in the sun)
- a dry cough that doesn’t go away
- swelling between the jaw and ears (swollen salivary glands)
- muscle pain
- joint stiffness and swelling
- difficulty concentrating and remembering
Sjögren’s syndrome may occur in association with other autoimmune diseases such as lupus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or myositis and lung disease.
If you have dry eyes, it can help to:
- avoid dry, smoky or windy places – it may help to use a humidifier at home or work to keep the air moist
- avoid reading, watching TV or looking at screens for a long time – this can dry your eyes out
- wear wrap-around sunglasses or glasses with sides that help stop wind drying out your eyes
- clean your eyelids regularly
- have regular check-ups with an optician
- avoid medicines that can cause dry eyes – check the leaflet that comes with a medicine to see if dry eyes is listed as a side effect
Eye drops and ointments
You can try eye drops and ointments that help keep your eyes wet, sometimes known as artificial tears. There are several different types that can be bought from pharmacies without a prescription. You may need to try a few types to find one that works for you.
If you use eye drops more than three times a day, avoid drops that contain preservatives as these can damage your eyes.
Occasionally a medication called pilocarpine – tablets that help the body produce more tears and saliva is used. Also, a procedure to block the tear ducts with tiny plugs to stop tears draining away can be useful.
Treatments for a dry mouth
- good oral hygiene – including brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day
- avoid sugary food and drinks and avoid snacking between meals
- use antibacterial mouthwash
- drink plenty of water
- regularly chew sugar-free chewing gum or suck on ice cubes
- use lip balm if your lips are dry and cracked
- avoid alcohol
- stop smoking
- have a dental check-up at least every six months
- avoid medicines that can cause a dry mouth – check the leaflet that comes with a medicine to see if dry mouth is listed as a side effect
There are products you can buy from pharmacies that help keep the mouth moist – known as saliva substitutes. There are several different types available, including sprays, lozenges (medicated sweets) and gels. You may need to try a few types to find one that works for you.
But these products don’t help prevent mouth infections in the same way that saliva does, so it’s still important to practise good oral hygiene.
Treatments for other common symptoms
If you have dry skin, it may help to use a moisturising cream (emollient) every day.
It’s also a good idea to avoid strong, perfumed soaps. Use emollient soap substitutes instead.
Treatments for vaginal dryness include:
- lubricants – liquids or gels that you apply to your vagina just before having sex for immediate relief from dryness
- moisturisers – creams that you apply inside your vagina to keep it moist for a few days
- hormone treatments – such as oestrogen medication you place in your vagina or HRT
A medication called hydroxychloroquine is sometimes recommended by Sjögren’s syndrome specialists as a treatment for joint pain or stiffness if other methods haven’t helped.
Dr. Joel David at Harley Street or The Annexe, Summertown Oxford, will help in the diagnosis and management of Sjögren’s Syndome