Treatments for Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva. Predominantly characterized by severely dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjogren’s syndrome can predispose patients to developing more severe dental and vision problems in the absence of proper treatment. Over-the-counter and home remedies, prescription medications and minor in-office procedures are available to treat Sjogren’s.

Over-the-Counter and Home Treatments

Over-the-counter eye drops may provide some relief of dry eye symptoms caused by Sjogren’s syndrome. According to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, preservative-free drops or gels may offer the most moisture, but be sure to read the label and check with your eye care specialist if you wear contacts, as not all eye drops can be applied while you are wearing your lenses. The National Institutes of Health also notes that there is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acid or fish oil supplements may offer some benefit to Sjogren’s syndrome patients. Because supplements can cause side effects, consult your physician prior to use.

To treat dry mouth symptoms, the National Institutes of Health recommends taking in small amounts of water regularly throughout the day, avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated beverages that can be dehydrating, and chewing sugarless gum. Because lack of saliva increases the risk of cavities, regular brushing, flossing and visits to the dentist are also recommended.

If Sjogren’s syndrome progresses and leads to the development of arthritis, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen may provide relief of pain and inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Prescription Treatments

A number of medications available by prescription may help to relieve the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. Dissolvable pellets called Lacriserts that are placed in the lower eyelid and activated with drops of artificial tears may provide dry eye relief for some patients with Sjogren’s syndrome, according to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Restasis is another eye drop available by prescription only. Known to cause some eye irritation and burning, Restasis may need to be taken for several months before significant benefit is observable.

Immunosuppressive oral medications such as methotrexate and cyclosporine, and drugs that increase saliva production, including cevimeline and pilocarpine, may also be prescribed, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Punctal Occlusion

Some patients with Sjogren’s syndrome may benefit from a minor in-office procedure called a punctal occlusion. After tears are produced, they normally drain out of the eye through drainage channels called puncta. By blocking one or more of these ducts with silicone or collagen plugs, your tears will take longer to drain and will keep the eye hydrated for a longer period of time, according to the Mayo Clinic.

About this Author

Based in New York City, Tricia Mangan began her writing career in 2001. She has co-authored a National Cancer Institute report and a number of research articles that have appeared in medical journals. Tricia holds a Master of Arts in clinical psychology from Stony Brook University and boasts diverse clinical, research and teaching experience.