Diagnosis of Sjögren’s Syndrome

The diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome requires the demonstration of an autoimmune disease that is adversely affecting the function of the exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva. Dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms. In general, assessments by a rheumatologist, ophthalmologist, and a dentist are needed in order to establish the presence of an inadequate tear film, decreased saliva production, salivary gland inflammation, and an underlying autoimmune process. A careful evaluation is needed to exclude other potential causes of dryness of the eyes and of the mouth.

Over the past 45 years, there has been an evolution in the definition of the symptoms and signs that, in aggregate, represent the disease process that we call “Sjogren’s syndrome”. There is no single test that establishes the presence of this disease. Currently, physicians rely on a set of classification criteria, assembled by an international panel in 2002, to define Sjogren’s syndrome. These are known as the the American-European Consensus Criteria for Sjogren’s syndrome.

Your doctors may recommend the following tests to determine if you have Sjögren’s syndrome:

  1. Schirmer’s test
  2. Ocular surface staining
  3. Salivary gland function scans (parotid scintigraphy)
  4. Labial gland (lip) biopsy
  5. Sialometry

Your doctors may also recommend other tests to determine if you have neurologic complications of Sjögren’s syndrome:

  1. Nerve conduction and electromyography
  2. Cutaneous nerve/skin biopsy
  3. Lumbar puncture
  4. MRI of the brain and spinal cord