Among the American population, Sjogren’s syndrome, pronounced /show-gruhnz/, affects about 0.1% to 1%. While the condition can occur on its own, also known as primary Sjogren’s syndrome, it can also develop alongside other disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sjogren’s syndrome is a serious condition as it brings health complications involving multiple organs such as your kidneys, liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. Hence, early diagnosis becomes imperative.
With that, Sjogren’s syndrome blood tests like the anti-SSA-Ro (Sjogren’s Syndrome A), anti-SSB-La (Sjogren’s Syndrome B) antibodies test, and a type of ANA (antinuclear antibody) test show the likelihood of having Sjogren’s syndrome.
This serum test also aids in diagnosing other autoimmune diseases, more notably lupus erythematosus. Hence, taking a Sjogren’s blood test alone may not be enough. Still, it’s a fundamental step to detecting the condition.
Find out how to get tested for Sjogren’s syndrome in detail as you read further.
What Is Sjogren’s Syndrome?
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder with prominent symptoms of having dry mouth and eyes. The disease affects the mucous membranes and glands that secrete substances for moisture, with immune cells mistakenly attacking the tissues.
While the condition can develop at any age with higher risks for people who have pre-existing autoimmune disorders, Sjorgen’s syndrome is often diagnosed among people in their 40s. Likewise, the prevalence is higher among females than males.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s Disease
- Dry mouth
- Cracked lips
- Dry eyes with itching, burning sensation, and grittiness
- Inflamed salivary glands
- Swollen glands around the neck and face
- Skin rashes with dry skin
- Vaginal dryness for women
- Persistent dry cough
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Extended fatigue
How To Diagnose Sjogren’s Syndrome? (Sjogren’s Syndrome Test)
It takes several procedures to diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome accurately, as with other autoimmune diseases. However, this depends on the symptoms you exhibit.
The diagnostic process for Sjogren’s syndrome involves taking a blood test, organ function scans via ocular inspection and staining, biopsy, sialometry, and Schirmer’s test.
Ocular inspection of the mouth and eyes: Dryness of moist body parts is often the first sign of Sjogren’s syndrome. Therefore, your physician will take a closer look at your eyes and mouth to detect damage and dryness, particularly on the secreting glands. In some cases, vaginal inspection is also carried out.
ANA blood test: After inspecting your symptoms, your doctor may immediately order an ANA test to detect the presence of the Sjogren’s antibodies indicating autoimmune disease. It could be a general test or a specific one like the following.
Anti-SSA-Ro and Anti-SSB-La antibodies test: This test is often identified as a Sjogren’s syndrome test as the antibodies, especially SSA, are found in high amounts among patients who have the disorder. Still, the said test is also used to help diagnose other autoimmune diseases.
Biopsy: A biopsy is performed, especially if the salivary glands are inflamed. The sample is taken from the part of the lip closest to the said tissue.
Sialometry: This process measures salivary flow and can be done in different ways. It could be as simple as spitting and having your saliva sample weighed or using suction cups to collect the saliva.
Schirmer’s test: This test is performed to measure tear production in your eyes. Typically, a strip of filter paper is placed on the lower eyelids. Next, you will be asked to close your eyes for about 5 minutes. After obtaining the strip, the tears are measured based on the length of moisture.
X-ray or CT Scan: Imaging tests are performed if your doctor suspects damage in the lungs due to Sjogren’s disease.
What Is a Positive Sjogren’s Blood Test?
With Anti-SSA-Ro and Anti-SSB-La antibodies test, a positive result is entailed by exceeding amounts of the said antibodies. This may suggest autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s disease.
A measure of >1.0 μ for both SSA/Ro and SSB/La indicates that you’re negative for the said autoimmune disease and related disorders. But, on the other hand, if you got >/= 1.0 μ, it could suggest that you have the condition, especially if you have similar results with the different diagnostic processes.
Can CBC Detect Sjogren’s Syndrome?
A complete blood count (CBC) with differential and platelet count can go hand-in-hand with the ANA blood test to diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome. However, it does not detect the disorder per se. Instead, your doctor will request a CBC to eliminate other potential causes of the symptoms, such as an infection.
Likewise, suppose Sjorgen’s syndrome is detected. In that case, the CBC can also determine if the condition comes with autoimmune cytopenia, wherein there’s a deficiency in the production of mature red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells, and platelets. Moreover, CBC will also reveal if you’re suffering from anemia which can be expected from different types of autoimmune disease.
Is Sjogren’s Syndrome Serious?
The fact that Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease entails that there is no available cure yet to eliminate the condition completely. However, you can manage the disorder, specifically by reducing the frequency of flare-ups and lowering the impacts of the symptoms.
Without proper diagnosis and a treatment plan, you may be susceptible to health issues that interrupt your daily productivity and functions.
For example, patients with Sjogren’s disease are prone to developing rashes with sunlight exposure. This is related to Sjogren’s affecting glands and tissues that secrete moisture. As a result, individuals tend to have dry skin, leading to blood vessel inflammation and skin lesions often associated with the rashes.
What Happens if Sjogren’s Is Left Untreated?
If you fail to seek treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome, the consequences can be dire. For one, if the condition is not diagnosed, you will also most likely overlook other disorders that can be far more life-threatening. Then, of course, there are the health complications associated with the condition stretching from mild to severe, such as the following:
Eye problems: The lack of sufficient moisture and tear production in your eyes invites higher risks for infection, which directly affects your vision.
Yeast Infections (oral and vaginal): You may experience oral thrush due to a lack of moisture. Also, when the vaginal wall is not sufficiently lubricated, it can harbor fungal growth leading to yeast infection.
Dental cavities: With bacteria, fungi, and other microbes thriving in your dry mouth, it comes as no surprise that you become more susceptible to dental cavities and other teeth problems.
Lung infections and other problems: Some lung complications you can experience with untreated Sjogren’s disease are bronchitis, lung tissue scarring, and pneumonia. This is due to the inflammation in the organ as immune cells attack the tissues.
Vasculitis: Blood vessels can inflame with Sjogren’s, making the passageway narrower, restricting blood flow.
Liver cirrhosis and liver cancer: Scarring in the liver tissue (cirrhosis) develops in those with Sjogren’s disease along with cancer as the condition affects the exocrine glands in the organ.
Neonatal complications: Women diagnosed with SS can still undergo a healthy pregnancy. However, the risk of newborn complications increases, such as heart problems or lupus.
Kidney problems: Sjogren’s can heavily affect kidney functions, specifically tubular ones. Add vasculitis to the equation, and you get kidney problems as a complication.
Increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Research has shown that individuals with Sjogren’s disease are five times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer originating from the lymphatic cells.
What Triggers Sjogren’s Syndrome?
With the proper treatment, you can manage Sjogren’s syndrome. However, there are instances where the symptoms are more aggravated, causing even more discomfort and pain. In this case, a flare-up can occur wherein you’ll feel more dryness in essential body parts and develop a skin rash. These flare-ups can be triggered by pollution, infection, a change in diet, certain drugs, and even stress. Also, if you have environmental allergies and got exposed to allergens, you will most likely experience flare-ups.
Nonetheless, you can prevent these triggers by understanding how and when symptoms of the disorder resurface. Then, consult your doctor for a better management plan.
Can Sjogren’s Go Away?
Since no cure has been developed for Sjogren’s syndrome and other autoimmune diseases for that matter, you can’t expect Sjogren’s to go away – either on its own or with treatment. Instead, you can manage the symptoms allowing you to still perform your day-to-day functions without the discomfort and pain that come with the disorder.
So, even if Sjogren’s will not completely disappear on its own, you can still achieve remission.
Treatment for Sjogren’s Syndrome
Medications for Sjogren’s often include those designed to alleviate the symptoms. These include applying artificial tears or eye drops to dry eyes and lozenges that stimulate moisture in the mouth. In addition, drugs that suppress immune responses like methotrexate may also be prescribed by your doctor, mainly if flare-ups occur frequently.
If you’re already diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and experience symptoms of Sjorgen’s syndrome, it’s best to see your doctor and get the necessary tests. That way, you’ll be protected from complications that can become life-threatening in the long run. But even if you’re as fit as a fiddle, detecting Sjogren’s early gives you more control over your health.