Treatments for dry eyes
Things you can do
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 wraparound sunglasses or glasses with sides that help stop wind drying out your eyes
- clean your eyelids regularly – read more about how to keep your eyelids clean
- 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 also try eye drops and ointments that help keep your eyes wet, sometimes known as artificial tears.
There are several different types of drops 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 if used frequently.
If the surface of your eye is irritated (inflamed), your doctor may prescribe drops containing steroids to use for a short period.
Sometimes other anti-inflammatory drops, such as ciclosporin drops, may be prescribed by an eye specialist.
Medicines and procedures
If self-help measures and eye drops aren't helping, your doctor may recommend:
- a medicine called pilocarpine – tablets that help the body produce more tears and saliva (read about medicines for a dry mouth for more information)
- a procedure to block the tear ducts with tiny man-made plugs to stop tears draining away – this can help keep your eyes covered with a layer of tears, so they don't feel as dry
Treatments for a dry mouth
Things you can do
If you have a dry mouth, it can help to:
- practise 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 – read advice about cutting back on alcohol
- stop smoking if you smoke
- 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 also 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.
The medicine pilocarpine can be used to treat a dry mouth and eyes. It comes as tablets that help the body produce more saliva and tears.
But it isn't suitable for everyone and can cause some side effects, such as sweating, headaches, and needing to pee more often than normal.
If your doctor recommends pilocarpine, talk to them about the benefits and risks of taking it.
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.
Read more about emollients and soap substitutes.
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 hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Read more about treatments for vaginal dryness.
Muscle and joint pain or stiffness
If you have pain or stiffness in your joints or muscles, it can help to:
- exercise regularly – a mixture of aerobic exercises (such as cycling)and strength and flexibility exercisesmay be helpful; a physiotherapist can recommend a suitable exercise plan
- take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen – your GP may prescribe stronger painkillers if these don't work
- lose weight if you're overweight
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.
But it isn't suitable for everyone and can take several months to work. It can also cause side effects such as tummy pain and feeling sick.