Pilocarpine for Sjögren's Syndrome
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Pilocarpine for Sjögren's syndrome is taken by mouth.
How It Works
Pilocarpine increases the amount of saliva and tears produced by the salivary and tear glands. Pilocarpine tablets are used to relieve dryness in the mouth, throat, and eyes caused by Sjögren's syndrome.
Why It Is Used
In Sjögren's syndrome, the moisture-producing glands of the body are attacked by the immune system and can become scarred and damaged, resulting in exceptional drying of the eyes and mouth. Besides being very uncomfortable and irritating, the dryness can lead to other symptoms, including yeast infections in the mouth (thrush), and cardboard-dry nasal and breathing passages. Pilocarpine stimulates an increase in the production of saliva and tears to relieve these symptoms.
How Well It Works
Pilocarpine improves symptoms of dry mouth and eyes caused by Sjögren's syndrome. Some people seem to get more relief than others.1 For dry eyes, it may take several weeks to get the full effect of the medicine.2
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
- Trouble breathing.
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Call your doctor right away if you have:
- Fast heartbeat.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
- Runny nose.
- Feeling warm or flushing and redness of the skin.
- Increased need to urinate.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
You should not take pilocarpine if you have:
- Uncontrolled asthma.
- Narrow-angle glaucoma or inflammation of the iris.
Talk to your doctor before taking pilocarpine if you have a history of heart disease, breathing problems, or kidney problems such as kidney stones.
Pilocarpine may cause vision changes such as blurring, especially in low light. This can make activities such as driving at night unsafe. Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your vision.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
- Naguwa S, Gershwin ME (2012). Sjögren's syndrome. In L Goldman, AI Schafer, eds., Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 1713–1716. Philadelphia: Saunders.
- Carsons S (2009). Sjögren's syndrome. In GS Firestein et al., eds., Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 8th ed., vol. 2, chap. 69, pp. 1149–1168. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Last Revised: April 27, 2012
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