Objective: To investigate whether reflex tearing measured by the Schirmer test with nasal stimulation is better correlated with lymphocytic infiltration of the lacrimal gland and is thus a more appropriate test for Sjögren's syndrome (SS).
Methods: 272 patients with dry eye (age 55.5 +/- 13.5 years) with regular Schirmer test results < 10 mm were recruited for the study. They were divided into 2 groups depending on the results of the Schirmer test with nasal stimulation. 24 age and sex matched patients from each group were selected for lacrimal gland biopsy and 10 patients for salivary gland biopsy, and the levels of systemic autoantibodies and degrees of ocular surface staining and lymphocytic infiltration of the lacrimal and salivary glands were compared.
Results: Of the 272 patients, 187 (68.8%) had good reflex tearing (GT) and 85 (31.2%) had poor reflex tearing (PT). There were no significant differences in the age or sex of the 2 groups. Lymphocytic infiltration of the lacrimal gland was observed in 7 GT cases and 22 PT cases out of 24 cases. Lymphocytic infiltration of the salivary gland was also higher in the PT (6 of 10) than the GT group (2 of 10).
Conclusion: Evaluation of reflex tearing by the Schirmer test with nasal stimulation identifies 2 groups of patients with dry eye. Those with poor reflex tearing were more likely to have autoantibodies and lymphocytic infiltration of the exocrine glands consistent with SS.