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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is Sjogren syndrome?
Sjogren syndrome is a disease that causes your immune system to attack healthy cells in your body. Tear and saliva glands are the most common areas to be attacked. Sjogren syndrome may happen alone. This is called primary Sjogren syndrome. Secondary Sjogren syndrome means you also have an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or arthritis.
What are the signs and symptoms of Sjogren syndrome?
- Dry eyes, or eyes that burn or itch
- Blurry vision, or sensitivity to light
- A dry mouth, or a feeling of cotton in your mouth
- Trouble swallowing, speaking, or tasting, or swollen glands in your throat
- Cavities in your teeth or mouth infections
- Pain in your muscles or joints, numb or tingling feeling in your arms or legs
- Dry skin or a rash on your arms or legs
- Dry cough, feeling tired every day, or a low fever
- In women, vaginal dryness
How is Sjogren syndrome diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell the provider when symptoms began and if they have gotten worse over time. Tell your provider if you have an autoimmune disease such as arthritis or lupus. Your provider may also ask about your medicines. Some medicines can cause dry mouth problems. Examples include medicines to prevent allergies, lower your blood pressure, or treat depression. The amount of tears or saliva you produce may be measured. You may also need blood tests to check the amount of inflammation. Your healthcare provider may refer you to an eye or autoimmune disorder specialist.
How are dry eye problems treated or managed?
- Blink often. You keep your eyes moist each time you blink. Remember to blink often, especially when you are working on a computer.
- Protect your eyes. Cover your eyes when you are in cold or windy weather. You can also use a humidifier to help keep the air moist. Avoid anything that irritates your eyes, such as smoke.
- Use artificial tears as needed. These are drops or gels you can put in your eyes. Artificial tears help your eyes stay moist. You may be give a prescription, or your healthcare provider may tell you to use over-the-counter types. You might need to use artificial tears that do not contain preservatives. These can irritate your eyes.
- Use an ointment at night. An ointment that is thicker than tears may also be helpful. They can make your vision blurry for a time. It may help to use them only before you sleep.
- Tear duct plugs may help keep tears in your eyes. Your healthcare provider can put the plugs into the ducts. The plugs prevent tears from draining out of your eyes too quickly.
- Steroid drops or surgery may be needed. Surgery may be used to fix tear gland or duct problems. Steroid drops help decrease inflammation. Surgery and steroids are usually only needed if other treatments do not work.
How are dry mouth problems treated or managed?
- Keep your mouth moist. Chew gum or suck on candy to help produce saliva. Choose gum or candy that does not contain sugar. Dry mouth increases your risk for cavities. Sugar in gum or candy can make your risk even higher. Take sips of water during the day. Try to wet your mouth each time you take a drink. Do not take sips often. You can remove mucus inside your mouth if you sip water too often during the day. The mucus coating in your mouth help keep it moist.
- Go to the dentist regularly. Your dentist can check for cavities and clean your teeth. Tell your doctor that you have Sjogren syndrome. Go to the dentist twice each year and if you have any pain or other problems in your mouth. Your dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements or a gel you can apply to your teeth at night. You may also be able to have a coating applied to your teeth to protect the enamel.
- Brush and floss your teeth. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue. Brush after each meal and before you go to bed. Floss after your brush.
- Apply lip balm if your lips are dry or cracked. Ask your healthcare provider what kind of lip balm to use.
- Rinse your mouth with water each day. Do not use any rinse or mouthwash that contains alcohol. Alcohol can dry your mouth. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a rinse or gel to use if you have pain or inflammation in your mouth.
What else can I do to manage Sjogren syndrome?
- Be careful with your voice. You may be hoarse if your vocal cords are swollen or get irritated from a dry throat or coughing. Do not clear your throat before you talk. Drink some water or use gum or candy to prevent hoarseness. You can also make an "h" sound to clear your throat gently.
- Ask about liquids. Depending on your symptoms and other diseases, your healthcare provider may tell you to increase or decrease the amount of liquid you drink. Liquids prevent dehydration, but too much liquid can increase urination. Increased urination can lead to dryness. Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Alcohol can increase dryness.
- Exercise as directed. Exercise can increase your energy. Exercise can also help keep your joints limber if you have an autoimmune disease such as arthritis. Your healthcare provider can help you create an exercise plan. Ask how often to exercise and which exercises are best for you.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, whole-grain breads, and cooked beans. Limit foods that are high in sodium (salt). Salt can lead to dehydration and increase dryness.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You have new or worsening symptoms.
- Your symptoms do not get better even with treatment.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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