Diagnosing Sjögren's Syndrome
Sjögren’s can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can sometimes be similar to those caused by other diseases or side effects from medications and can vary from person to person. In fact, the average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis is approximately seven years.
Although Sjögren’s is typically diagnosed by rheumatologists, most patients talk to a variety of different doctors about their symptoms including ophthalmologists, dentists, ENTs (Ear, Nose & Throat specialists) or general healthcare providers.
Sjögren's Syndrome Tests
There are a number of different tests to help diagnose Sjögren’s:
Blood tests – Your doctor may order blood tests to check the levels of your different types of blood cells, as well as your blood glucose levels. Blood tests may also be used to detect the presence of antibodies common in Sjögren’s, evidence of inflammatory conditions or indications of problems with your liver or kidneys.
Salivary Flow tests – Your doctor may order salivary flow tests to see how much saliva you produce, including:
- Spit test: During this test, your doctor will have you spit into a test tube every minute for 15 minutes. The total amount of saliva collected is then measured to determine the severity of your dry mouth
- Sialogram: Your doctor may order a special X-ray called a sialogram. During this test, dye is injected into your parotid glands (located behind your jaw and in front of your ears). From this, your doctor can see how much saliva flows into your mouth.
Eye tests – There are two different types of eye tests that doctors may use to diagnose Sjögren’s:
- The Schirmer test: This test measures the dryness of your eyes by putting a small piece of paper under your lower eyelid to measure your tear production.
- The Slit-lamp test: This test examines the dryness of the surface of your eye by staining it with vital dyes and using a magnifying device, called a slit lamp.
Other tests – Since symptoms of Sjögren’s can vary from person to person, a number of other tests may be used depending on what symptoms you may be experiencing. Other diagnostic options include:
- Imaging:A number of different imaging tests are used to diagnose Sjögren’s. These common tests check the condition of your salivary glands or see if you are experiencing inflammation of the lungs.
- Biopsy: Your doctor may also want to do a lip biopsy of your salivary glands to detect the presence of inflammatory cells, which can indicate Sjögren’s.
- Urine sample: Your doctor may want you to provide a urine sample to determine whether Sjögren’s has affected your kidneys.