Objective: To describe the demographic, clinical, and laboratory features and natural history of patients with systemic sclerosis sine scleroderma (ssSSc), and to compare them with those of patients with SSc and limited cutaneous involvement (IcSSc).
Methods: The University of Pittsburgh Scleroderma Databank served as the data source. Patients were divided into those who had no skin thickening (ssSSc) and those who had skin thickening only distal to elbows or knees and/or of the face (IcSSc) during their disease course. These two groups were compared with regard to demographic characteristics, clinical, laboratory, and serologic features, and survival rates. Chi-square and Student's t-test analyses were performed, and Fisher's exact test was used as appropriate.
Results: Of 555 consecutive patients without diffuse cutaneous SSc, 48 (9%) had ssSSc and 507 (91%) had IcSSc. The ssSSc patients had a mean total disease duration of 18.6 years (15.1 years before study entry and 3.5 years of followup after study entry), and had not developed IcSSc or another connective tissue disease. Other than the absence of skin thickening, the ssSSc group had no significant differences in individual internal organ involvements, laboratory features, serum autoantibody type, or survival rate compared with patients with IcSSc. Within the category of lung involvement, patients with ssSSc had a significantly greater frequency of dyspnea with mild exertion or at rest, and a tendency toward reduced carbon monoxide diffusing capacity (<70% of predicted normal) and primary pulmonary arterial hypertension. Patients with IcSSc had significantly more frequent individual manifestations of digital pitting scars, digital-tip ulcers, telangiectasia, and calcinosis than those with ssSSc, in part related to increased time of observation. Puffy fingers and finger joint contractures were detected significantly more often in IcSSc patients.
Conclusion: Systemic sclerosis sine scleroderma should be included in the spectrum of SSc with limited cutaneous involvement and should not be considered a distinct or separate disorder.