Reliability of non-contact tongue diagnosis for Sjögren's syndrome using machine learning method

Sci Rep. 2023 Jan 24;13(1):1334. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-27764-4.


Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by dry mouth. The cause of SS is unknown, and its diverse symptoms make diagnosis difficult. The Saxon test, an intraoral examination, is used as the primary diagnostic method for SS, however, the risk of salivary infection is problematic. Therefore, we investigate the possibility of diagnosing SS by non-contact and imaging observation of the tongue surface. In this study, we obtained tongue photographs of 60 patients at the Tsurumi University School of Dentistry outpatient clinic to clarify the relationship between the features of the tongue and SS. We divided the tongue into four regions, and the color of each region was transformed into CIE1976L*a*b* space and statistically analyzed. To clarify experimentally the possibility of SS diagnosis using tongue color, we employed three machine-learning models: logistic regression, support vector machine, and random forest. In addition, we constructed diagnostic prediction models based on the Bagging and Stacking methods combined with three machine-learning models for comparative evaluation. This analysis used dimensionality compression by principal component analysis to eliminate redundancy in tongue color information. We found a significant difference between the a* value of the rear part of the tongue and the b* value of the middle part of the tongue in SS and non-SS patients. In addition to the principal component scores of tongue color, the support vector machine was trained using age, and achieved high accuracy (71.3%) and specificity (78.1%). The results indicate that the prediction of SS diagnosis by tongue color reaches a level comparable to machine learning models trained using the Saxon test. This is the first study using machine learning to predict SS diagnosis by non-contact tongue observation. Our proposed method can potentially support early SS detection simply and conveniently, eliminating the risk of infection at diagnosis, and it should be validated and optimized in clinical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases* / complications
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sjogren's Syndrome* / complications
  • Sjogren's Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Xerostomia* / etiology