Assessment

HISTORY. Establish a history of either autoimmune or lymphoproliferative disorders. Rule out other causes of oral and ocular dryness; ask about any history of sarcoidosis, endocrine disorders, anxiety or depression, and radiation therapy to the head and neck. Many commonly used medications produce dry mouth as a side effect, so take a thorough history of medications. In patients with salivary gland enlargement and severe lymphoid infiltration, rule out malignancy. Approximately 50% of patients with SS have confirmed RA. When you ask about symptoms, the patient may report gritty or sandy sensations in the eye or a film across the visual field. Patients may also report dryness of the mouth, burning oral discomfort, difficulty in chewing and swallowing dry foods, increased thirst, and reduced taste. The patient may also report the incidence of many dental caries and chronic middle ear infections. Dryness of the vagina and vulva leads to reports of painful urination, itching, and painful or difficult sexual intercourse.

The patient's tongue is often red and dry with atrophic taste buds. Unilateral or bilateral parotid and salivary glands may be hardened and nontender. Dental caries are a common finding. The dryness may make talking difficult. Patients may have a dry, chronic cough and an increased incidence of upper and lower respiratory tract infections, which has resulted in a chronic vocal hoarseness. Nasal mucosa may be dry and reddened. Gastrointestinal tract involvement may lead to gastritis, esophageal mucosal atrophy, and difficulty in swallowing. Genitalia may appear dry and possibly ulcerated. Involvement of the exocrine glands leads to dry, tough, scaly skin; decreased sweat; and chronic itching.

The patient with SS has complaints that may have been attributed to multiple causes, possibly over years. Because SS is closely related to systemic lupus erythematosus and RA, the patient may have been misdiagnosed, causing considerable emotional distress. Because SS affects senses, such as sight and taste, and also sexuality, assess the patient's ability to cope with the presenting symptoms and other common complaints.

Diagnostic Highlights

Test

Normal Result

Abnormality with Condition

Explanation

Salivary gland

Normal salivary

Presence of inflammatory cells

Identifies abnormal cells in

biopsy

gland cells

and immune complexes

secretory glands and ducts

Slit-lamp

Normal examination

Detection of dryness of conjunc-

Identifies reduced tear film

examination

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