Jul. 12, 2013

Living with Lupus, Sjögren’s and Raynaud’s

by Jenny Thorn Palter

Two overlapping conditions known to many with lupus are Sjögren’s syndrome and Raynaud’s disease, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Here are some practical dos and don’ts to living with these diseases.

Sjögren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome affects the body’s ability to produce moisture in the glands of the eyes, nose, mouth, and vagina. Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma. Sjögren’s syndrome is classified as primary when it occurs alone, or secondary, when another connective tissue disease is present. Prescription medicines for dry eyes and dry mouth are available, as are various over-the-counter lubricating products.

  •     Do keep high-humidity work and home environments.
  •     Do breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
  •     Do be aware that many prescribed medications cause dry mouth (xerostomia).
  •     Do pay close attention to the health of your teeth and gums.
  •     Don’t consume spicy foods or acidic juices, fruits, or vegetables, which can irritate mouth tissue.
  •     Don’t eat hard, crunchy foods that can irritate or tear mouth tissue.
  •     Don’t smoke or spend time in locations where others are smoking.
  •     Don’t use tartar-control toothpaste or teeth-whitening products, which can irritate mouth tissue.
  •     Don’t overuse alcohol (including wine) or mouthwashes that contain alcohol, because they can dry the mouth further.

Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s disease causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which most commonly affects the fingers and toes. When blood can’t get to the surface of the skin, the affected areas turn white and blue. When the blood flow returns, the skin turns red and throbs or tingles. In severe cases, loss of blood flow can cause sores or tissue death. Prescription medicines can help keep the blood vessels open, but the best treatment is to avoid the cause of the attacks.

  •     Do avoid abrupt changes in temperature, especially going from warm air to air conditioning.
  •     Do soak your hands or feet in warm water at the first sign of an attack.
  •     Do use mittens when taking anything out of a freezer.
  •     Do avoid excess stress.
  •     Do see your doctor if your symptoms become worse or if you notice any sores on your fingers or toes.
  •     Don’t smoke or spend time in locations where others are smoking.
  •     Don’t use vibrating tools, such as an electric hand mixer or power tools.
  •     Don’t go outside in cold weather without a coat, hat, warm socks, and mittens (not gloves, which allow more cold air to get between the fingers).