Objective: To test patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS) for evidence of autonomic neuropathy.
Methods: Thirty-two patients with primary SS and 22 age and sex matched healthy individuals were asked specific questions about symptoms suggestive of autonomic neuropathy, and were subjected to a battery of 5 cardiovascular tests: response of blood pressure to sustained hand grip, Valsalva maneuver, heart rate response to deep breathing, and heart rate and blood pressure response to standing up. The chi-squared test with Yates' correction and 95% confidence intervals were used for statistical analysis of the results.
Results: Sixteen patients (50%) had symptoms of autonomic neuropathy when specifically asked versus none of the controls (p < 0.0005). The frequency of abnormal responses to the tests was 68.8% in patients and 12.7% in controls (p < 0.0001). Severe autonomic cardiovascular neuropathy was found in 87.5% of the patients but in none of the healthy individuals (p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: Our results suggest that autonomic neuropathy is a feature of a significant portion of the SS population, and such patients should have appropriate evaluation. Similarly, patients with unexplained autonomic neuropathy should be investigated for evidence of SS.