Background: In systemic sclerosis (SSc), digital ulcers (DU) are painful, difficult to heal and frequently infected, thus greatly affecting quality of life and increasing SSc-related disability. Vitamin E has been previously used in cutaneous lesions for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Objectives: To study the healing effect of D-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (acetic ester of alpha-tocopherol) (VE) gel on DU of SSc patients.
Methods: 27 SSc patients with a total of 86 DU were enrolled in an open pilot study. The patients were randomly assigned to two groups: 15 patients were treated until DU healing with the local standard ulcer care protocol with the application of vitamin E gel (experimental group), while 12 patients were treated with standard ulcer care protocol only (control group). In both groups, DU were treated twice a week and pain was scored by a NRS (numeric rating scale). In both groups the cost of medications was analysed.
Results: VE induced a faster healing of DU in respect to controls (13.22+/-2.72 weeks, versus 20.94+/-3.65; p<0.0001) with a lower number of medications (26.18+/-5.63 vs. 41.88+/-7.31; p<0.0001). Resolution of pain was faster in experimental (17.82+/-4,59 medications) than in controls (26.26+/-19.16 medications) (p=0.0022). In the experimental group, the cost of medications was significantly lower (6,919.15 euros/patient) than in the control group (11,056.32 euros/patient).
Conclusion: The application of VE reduces time of healing and has a faster resolution of pain, with a significant reduction of costs. Topical VE may improve the management of DU in SSc.