How to help a friend living with Sjogren’s Syndrome?

Sascha Gallardo - July 16, 2021

Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition that affects the moisture-producing glands. People living with this syndrome usually suffer from dry eyes and dry mouth but others also experience fatigue, joint pain, skin rash, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Being an autoimmune disorder, Sjogren’s syndrome involves a malfunction of the immune system and attacks the person’s cells and tissues. The exact cause of this condition is unknown. Genes seem to play a role but it also seems to require a certain trigger such as an infection.

At present, there is no cure for Sjogren’s Syndrome. There are, however, some treatments available to manage the symptoms.

If you have a friend or a loved one living with Sjogren’s syndrome, here are some of the things you can do to help:

  • Find out what aggravates their symptoms. Since there is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome and the treatment is focused on managing symptoms, it would be good if you’re familiar with the things they need to avoid. A windy environment, for instance, is not good for their dry eyes. Lack of sleep and anxiety can worsen symptoms in general.

  • Help them avoid stress. If stress can lower the immune system even of people who do not have a chronic illness, it can definitely worsen the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome.

If you’re living with someone dealing with this condition, you can take on some of their chores or hire someone who could help. Also, avoid getting into arguments, especially unnecessary ones since these can be a source of stress.

  • Be mindful of dietary requirements. Your friend might be following a certain diet to better manage their condition. It would be better if you ask them about food they prefer or avoid.

  • Schedule wisely. People living with Sjogren’s syndrome want to enjoy activities just like everyone else. But these might require them to rest longer than usual the following day.

One way to still enjoy these activities is to schedule wisely. For example, if there’s a long holiday, you might want to schedule the activity on the first day so that they have the remaining days to rest.

  • Lend an ear. Listen to them when they want to talk. You don’t need to provide suggestions, you just need to let them express what they feel and that alone is a big help.

  • Let them know you’re there for them. For some people, it is not that easy to ask for help. It would be good if you let your friend or loved one know that you’re willing to help as much as possible.

Living with an autoimmune disease like Sjogren’s syndrome can be really challenging, but having people who are supportive can make a huge difference.

If you think you or someone you know would benefit from a safe and supportive group like Ben’s Friends’ Sjogren’s Syndrome Support community, we invite you to sign up here.