Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Sjögren Syndrome

The exact cause of Sjögren syndrome is unknown, but it is believed that it could be caused by genetic factors and then triggered by a viral or bacterial infection.

Your physician will likely use a combination of these methods to arrive at a diagnosis:

History and physical exam: During the exam, your physician will ask about your symptoms and examine your eyes and mouth. Because there are other causes of dry eyes and dry mouth such as medications or other diseases and treatments, you will need to provide a thorough medical history.

Blood tests: Blood tests are done to look for antibodies common in Sjögren syndrome.

Eye tests: A Schirmer’s test is used to detect dryness in the eyes. It is done by placing a small strip of paper under the eyelid to check for moisture. You may also be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for more in-depth eye testing.

Salivary tests: A nuclear medicine scan can measure how well your salivary glands are functioning. During the scan, a radioactive "tracer" will be injected into a vein. A special camera will take pictures from different angles as the tracer moves through your blood to your salivary glands. After the first set of pictures has been taken, you will be asked to bite down on a lemon wedge for a second set of pictures.

A salivary flow test (sialogram) can determine how much saliva you are producing. During the sialogram, a small, flexible tube will be inserted through your mouth and into the duct of your salivary gland. A special dye will then be injected into the duct to allow it to be more visible on an X-ray.

A lip biopsy can be used to detect inflammation of the salivary glands. During the biopsy, your lip will be numbed and a small amount of tissue will be removed to be examined under a microscope.