Purpose: Systemic implications necessitate the identification of dry eye patients with Sjögren syndrome (SS). This study aims to explore the utility of tear MUC5AC and inflammatory cytokine levels in the differential diagnosis of SS-related dry eye.
Methods: A prospective, observational, case-control study was conducted on 62 patients (those with a definitive diagnosis of SS dry eye, non-SS dry eye, and age-matched healthy controls with no dry eye). Clinical evaluations included the following tests in the order listed here: noninvasive tear break-up time, osmolarity, tear sampling, Schirmer test without anesthesia, and ocular surface staining (lissamine green for conjunctiva and fluorescein for cornea). Tear MUC5AC levels were assessed with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and cytokines [interferon-gamma, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-17a, IL-1β, IL-8, IL-10, and IL-12p70] were measured using a Luminex assay in a masked fashion.
Results: The Bulbar conjunctival lissamine green staining score was significantly greater in patients or controls with SS versus non-SS dry eye. This greater conjunctival staining was associated with a reduction in tear MUC5AC (B = -17.8 ng/mL, 95% confidence interval = -31.8 to -3.9, P = 0.01). Among the tear cytokines, a significant association was found between IL-8 levels (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.002, 95% confidence interval = 1.000-1.003, P = 0.03) and SS diagnosis. When patients were stratified based on tear MUC5AC levels, significantly increased tear IL-8 levels were detected in patients with SS dry eye but not with non-SS dry eye, in comparison with healthy controls.
Conclusions: Tear levels of goblet cell-specific MUC5AC combined with IL-8 can potentially serve as a useful biomarker for differential diagnosis of SS dry eye from non-SS dry eye.