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Dry as a Desert

Dry as a Desert

Many of us with RA have other challenges to contend with that are not always so overtly related to the disease.  One of those is dryness.  I mean dryness of every orifice, follicle and organ in our bodies!   For some of us it develops into Sjogrens Syndrome but for some it simply means ongoing, miserable dryness.

Sjögren’s (pronounced SHOW-grins) syndrome is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease in which moisture-producing glands are damaged, significantly decreasing the quantity and quality of saliva and tears. The disease was first identified by a Swedish physician, Henrik Sjögren, in 1933. The hallmark symptoms are dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain but Sjögren’s may cause dysfunction of other organs.  Sjögren’s is one of the most common and prevalent autoimmune disorders, striking as many as 4,000,000 Americans. Nine out of ten patients are women. About half of the time Sjögren’s occurs alone, and the other half it occurs in the presence of another connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.

For me it became apparent when I could no longer wear contact lens because my eyes were so dry that even using “plugs” did nothing to produce tears. Then my dry mouth and skin joined the party and it was soon obvious what was going on. My case is not that extreme, so I can use artificial tears, lots of heavy duty moisturizers, and saliva producing hard (sugar free) candy to counter the symptoms. For many, however, it takes more intense treatments and medications but just as with RA, the best approach should be personalized to each patient’s needs and situation.

Dryness is troublesome even when it is not to the point of Sjogrens.  Dry and troubled skin can be a side effect of many of the medications we are prescribed such as corticosteroids.  So taking care to address it is important to avoid other complications like skin or scalp ulcers from dryness. Using moisturizing shampoo and not shampooing every day can help offset the dry scalp problem. It is so uncomfortable to have an itchy, dry scalp!  Dry skin can be tough to address. If you see a dermatologist, best to ask them for a recommendation for a good cream to use. Believe it or not, each of us have unique skin characteristics, so consulting someone who follows your own special skin will yield the best results. In addition, staying away from really dry environments (like full on sun) helps too. I also found that as much as I love hot baths for my RA pain, I need to be careful not to do it too often as it really dries my skin out! So now, if I am in need of them frequently, I just do it for less time and make the water a little less hot.

Dry eyes are not only annoying but can be quite painful. We all know that feeling of sand in our eyes and it is horribly uncomfortable. I keep lubricating drops with me AT ALL TIMES.  I never know for sure when it might rear its ugly head and so I keep them nearby.  I have a pattern of using them first thing in the morning and right before bed every day.  Then I use them in between as needed. Wearing sunglasses on windy and sunny days can really help to alleviate the extent of dryness too. Again, I would mention it to your ophthalmologist on your next visit so they can check for any possible complications and recommend the best course of treatment for you specific situation.

Dealing with dryness is tough but you can find respite and relief if you take the time to develop an action plan.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • tattoomama
    2 years ago

    I have Sjogren’s and take medication for the dryness and use Resatsis and lubricating drops for my eyes. That worked ok until about a year ago when nothing seemed to be working for my dry eyes! I had tear duct plugs put in and switched to preservative free eye drops, tried to stay out of drafts and bright lights. When all that failed to give me relief, my eye doc had specially made eye drops using my own blood made for me. I have been using them for three days and the difference is amazing. They are kind of expensive and require new blood work done every six weeks, but it is well worth the expense and time if it cures my dry eyes!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Glad you found something that helps KerryW and thanks for sharing. It is always good to see community members trying to help each other.

    Unfortunately, RA (and other autoimmune conditions) lends itself to comorbidities. This article from our editorial team looks at RA and comorbidities, including sjogren’s:

    Wishing you the best, Richard ( Team)

  • GingerS
    3 years ago

    I deal with dry skin and too dry eyes also. At bedtime I use an eye gel to both eyes. Then in the am I use artificial tears to help clear the gel out. The gel will blur your vision so it is the last thing I do at bedtime. Dry skin I just use lots of lotion at bedtime and after showers. I hope this helps you. 🙂
    The dry eyes were one of the first symptoms of RA for me.

  • KerryW
    3 years ago

    I have Sjogren’s along with RA too. My mouth is so dry I can hardly stand it. It never stops, it is constantly dry. I have found that “Smart Mouth” (Walmart) has helped me considerably. I still suffer with it but not nearly as bad. It’s so hard living with an autoimmune illness. Every day has its challenges. The medications we have to take only seems to create more.

  • tattoomama
    2 years ago

    Have your Reumatologist prescribe Salagen or Evoxac. The later works better than the former, but is much more expensive even in their generic forms.

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