It has been previously proposed that there is a primary microvascular abnormality in patients with systemic sclerosis. In this study using conventional light and electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and labelled adenosine uptake techniques, changes in the dermal microvasculature have been related to the various clinical stages of skin disease in systemic sclerosis. The earliest pathological changes are seen in clinically normal skin. They constitute changes in endothelial cell function and their consequences. Perivascular oedema is an early feature. With progression in the clinical disease, there is, at first, an inflammatory cell infiltrate into the dermis, particularly the papillary and mid-dermis, and platelet aggregation within vessels. Further clinical progression is associated with increasing dermal fibrosis, loss of adnexae, and vascular effacement. It is postulated that the recruitment of different types of mononuclear cells into the dermis is causally linked with the preceding endothelial cell dysfunction and the subsequent induction of fibroblast proliferation and collagen synthesis.