Living with Sjögren's symptoms and adjusting behaviors to cope with those symptoms often becomes routine. In fact, you may not realize how much your symptoms are affecting your life because you have come to rely on these coping mechanisms to help you get through the day. However, these same coping mechanisms may prevent you from noticing changes in your symptoms that could be alleviated by a new treatment regime.
If you have been diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, it is important to periodically assess the severity and/or frequency of your symptoms and their impact on your daily activities. Below are some questions that may help you determine if it is time to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and possible treatments.
Food & Diet
- Are you sipping water/liquid every few minutes just to keep your mouth moist enough to speak clearly and easily?
- Have you noticed increased sensitivity or pain when you eat certain foods (e.g., spicy or acidic foods) or drink alcohol?
- Are you using more wet condiments (e.g. mayonnaise, salad dressing, sauce, gravy, etc.) to moisten food so that you can chew and swallow more easily?
- Have you experienced more cavities or oral health problems recently?
- Have your eyes felt more sensitive to light or wind lately?
- Are you using over-the-counter treatments like throat lozenges or eye drops more than the recommended amount?
- Have you avoided or declined invitations to events because you are afraid you won't be able to eat the food served?
- Have you canceled plans or stopped what you're doing because you felt too tired to keep going?
If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, make sure you talk to your doctor about your symptoms. It may be time to adjust your treatment plan to help manage your symptoms better.
Click here for a printable version of the list above that you can take with you to your next doctor's appointment.
Dry-mouth symptoms are characterized as a chalky feeling in the mouth, or as if the mouth is full of cotton. It may be difficult to swallow, speak or taste things. For many Sjögren's patients, dry-mouth symptoms can affect their daily activities.
Use a humidifier - Staying hydrated is important for Sjögren's patients. Increase the humidity in your home, particularly at night, by using a room humidifier.
Sip water frequently - Keep your mouth moist by sipping small amounts of water during the day to reduce dry-mouth symptoms. Try not to "over sip" so that you do not wash away your saliva. Lemon juice in water may also help stimulate saliva flow.
Chew sugarless gum - Activate your salivary secretion by chewing sugarless gum. Sucking on sugar-free candies also works well.
Treat your dry-mouth symptoms from the inside out - Behavioral changes and topical treatments may provide temporary relief. If you have moderate to severe dry-mouth symptoms, you may require a systemic treatment. Some prescription treatments have been shown to increase salivary flow in patients suffering from dry mouth associated with Sjögren's syndrome.