Making the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome in patients with
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Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a chronic and progressive systemic autoimmune disease that often presents initially with symptoms of dry eye and dry mouth. Symptoms are often nonspecific and develop gradually, making diagnosis difficult. Patients with dry eye complaints warrant a step-wise evaluation for possible SS. Initial evaluation requires establishment of a dry eye diagnosis using a combination of patient questionnaires and objective ocular tests, including inflammatory biomarker testing. Additional work-up using the Schirmer test and tear film break-up time can differentiate between aqueous-deficient dry eye (ADDE) and evaporative dry eye. The presence of ADDE should trigger further work-up to differentiate between SS-ADDE and non-SS-ADDE. There are numerous non-ocular manifestations of SS, and monitoring for SS-related comorbid findings can aid in diagnosis, ideally in collaboration with a rheumatologist.

The clinical work-up of SS can involve a variety of tests, including tear function tests, serological tests for autoantibody biomarkers, minor salivary gland and lacrimal gland biopsies. Examination of classic SS biomarkers (SS-A/Ro, SS-B/La, antinuclear antibody, and rheumatoid factor) is a convenient and non-invasive way of evaluating patients for the presence of SS, even years prior to confirmed diagnosis, although not all SS patients will test positive, particularly those with early disease. Recently, newer biomarkers have been identified, including autoantibodies to salivary gland protein-1, parotid secretory protein, and carbonic anhydrase VI, and may allow for earlier diagnosis of SS. A diagnostic test kit is commercially available (Sjö®), incorporating these new biomarkers along with the classic autoantibodies. This advanced test has been shown to identify SS patients who previously tested negative against traditional biomarkers only. All patients with clinically significant ADDE should be considered for serological assessment for SS, given the availability of new serological diagnostic tests and the potentially serious consequences of missing the diagnosis.

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