Sjögren's syndrome is a disorder of the immune system that was first diagnosed in 1933 by Dr. Henrik Sjögren. Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation estimates that approximately four million people in the United States are affected by this auto-immune disorder that affects the moisture glands of the body. If your doctor suspects that you have Sjögren's Syndrome, he will most likely send you for a blood test that will positively identify the SSA antigen that is associated with the disease.
The SSA Antigen
The SSA antigen is also referred to as the "Ro/SSA" antigen. When SSA is found in combination with the SSB (la) antigen, it commonly points to Sjögren's Syndrome. In the book "The New Sjögren's Syndrome Handbook" author Daniel J. Wallace points out that a patient who tests positive for the SSA and SSB antigens on a blood test for Sjögren's Syndrome usually also tests positive for the antinuclear antigen (ANA).
The test that is given to identify SSA and SSB antigens in the blood stream often includes a CBC (complete blood count) as well as a liver and kidney function reading, blood glucose level reading and a Rheumatoid Factor (RF) reading. According to ClinLab Navigator, one tube of blood is needed to perform an SSA blood test, and the findings are recorded as either a positive or negative blood result.
Symptoms of Positive SSA
An SSA positive, Sjögren's Syndrome auto-immune disorder is systemic, commonly associated with the eyes and mouth, but sometimes affecting other systems in the body. According to Mayo Clinic, dry eyes and dryness of the mouth are both symptoms of Sjögren's Syndrome. The eyes may also itch and burn, and the patient may complain of difficulty swallowing due to the lack of saliva in his mouth. Painful swelling of the muscles and joints can also accompany a positive SSA blood test, along with a dry cough, rash and fatigue.
SSA Markers and Other Diseases
Patients who test positive for the Sjögren's Syndrome markers may also test positive for other diseases. Leukopenia and thrombocytopenia are both blood disorder that are sometimes associated with SSA positive patients. Vasculitis is a condition that causes an inflammation of the blood vessels which is also associated with Sjögren's Syndrome. According to John Hopkins Medicine, vasculitis is known as the hurting disease, defined by the intense feeling of pain that the condition can bring about.
SSA and Systemic Lupus
The SSA antibody can also show up in a blood test that is unrelated to Sjögren's Syndrome. In the book "The Lupus Book: A Guide for Patients and Their Families," author Daniel Wallace explains that SSA plays a role in systemic lupus, and categorizes it as a "cell surface component." He also notes that SSA is one of the very few antibodies that can cross the placenta of a lupus positive mother into the bloodstream of the fetus; inducing a neonatal form of lupus.