Pilocarpine for Sjögren's Syndrome

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Pilocarpine for Sjögren's Syndrome


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Pilocarpine is available only by prescription as tablets to be 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 has shown good results in relieving the dry mouth symptoms and the dry eyes symptoms caused by Sjögren's syndrome. For dry eyes, it may take several weeks to get the full effect of the medicine.1

Side Effects

Mild side effects may occur as you begin pilocarpine treatment. Check with your doctor if you have any of these side effects or think you are having other side effects:

  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling warm or flushing and redness of the skin, especially on the face and neck
  • Muscle aches or pains
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Runny nose
  • Changes in vision

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of pilocarpine. Check with your doctor if you are taking other eye medicines or are having surgery. If you have had asthma, chronic diarrhea, heart disease, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, or obstruction of the urinary bladder, you should discuss this with your doctor before starting pilocarpine.

If you are breast-feeding, pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking pilocarpine.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about other medicines that you take, both prescription and non-prescription, before starting pilocarpine treatment.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Carsons S (2005). 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.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
Last Revised June 23, 2010

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