Why So Dry?
Test helps detect Sjögren’s Syndrome.
CORRIE PELC, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Arthur B. Epstein, O.D., F.A.A.O., director of Dry Eye Center of Arizona, says he recently experienced a case in which a patient who underwent chemotherapy developed general ocular dryness. It was not until he used Nicox’s Sjö diagnostic panel, a laboratory test for the early detection of Sjögren’s Syndrome, that he was able to establish a definitive diagnosis.
The reason: Though patients often present complaining of dry eye, this is not always indicative of Sjögren’s Syndrome. In addition, the diagnosis of the disease takes an average of 4.7 years from the onset of symptoms, according to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, and diagnosis is often in late stages of the disease after gland degradation occurs, says Scott Hauswirth, O.D., F.A.A.O., of Minnesota Eye Consultants, P.A., in Minneapolis.
“After this [ocular dryness] goes on for a while, patients don’t have the ability to produce normal amounts of tears and saliva because they have a reduced amount of healthy secretory tissue,” Dr. Hauswirth says. “By detecting it earlier, we can intervene at a point before advanced sequela occur, preserving more glandular tissue and restoring more healthy function.”
This makes the Sjö test a necessity in the early identification of Sjögren’s Syndrome, say those interviewed.
Sjögren’s is a chronic autoimmune disease in which white blood cells attack the glands that produce moisture. The condition causes symptoms, such as dry eyes and dry mouth, says the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation.
Additionally, patients may experience joint paint, extreme fatigue and the dysfunction of certain organs, such as the kidneys and liver. The Foundation estimates roughly 4 million Americans suffer from Sjögren’s, 3 million of whom are undiagnosed.
Sjö is an in-office blood test for the diagnosis of Sjögren’s Syndrome.
The Sjö diagnostic tool is an in-office blood test that uses specific markers to provide a definitive diagnosis. The test is administered by using a finger-prick device on the patient and placing a drop of blood on five wells in a card (included with the test).
The card is then shipped to an outside lab. Test results are sent back to the physician within 10 to 14 days. Sjö tests for seven markers associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome: the four traditional biomarkers and three new proprietary biomarkers, which detect Sjögren’s earlier than traditional biomarkers, Dr. Epstein says.
For the test itself, an insurance company is billed first, though coverage varies based on the patient’s insurance plan, says Dr. Epstein. Most Medicare patients incur no out-of-pocket expense for this test, those interviewed say.
Dr. Epstein says he believes the Sjö test will help increase optometrists’ success with dry eye patients while helping to uncover Sjögren’s Syndrome after using the test. “The percentage of Sjögren’s patients in a typical eyecare practice may go from 1% or 2% today to 10% or 20%,” he says. “It’s going to create a paradigm shift in the way we see these patients.”
Also, Dr. Hauswirth says the test provides an opportunity to work with other healthcare professionals for the betterment of patients, building bridges between optometry and rheumatology.
“The test creates an opportunity for increased patient flow between the professions of optometry and rheumatology, providing improved collaboration on patient care.” OM
CORRIE PELC IS A FREELANCE WRITER BASED IN SACRAMENTO, CALIF. SHE HAS WRITTEN FOR BOTH CONSUMER AND TRADE PUBLICATIONS AND IS THE FORMER COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER FOR THE CALIFORNIA OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION. SEND COMMENTS TO OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.