Frequency and impact of symptoms experienced by patients with systemic sclerosis: results from a Canadian National Survey

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2011 Apr;50(4):762-7. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq310. Epub 2010 Dec 11.


Objective: Knowledge about the range of symptoms experienced by patients with SSc, and their impact on daily functioning is limited. The objective of the present study was to identify symptoms of SSc that patients rated as frequent and that highly impacted their ability to carry out daily activities.

Methods: A total of 464 persons with SSc responded to the Canadian Scleroderma Patient Survey of Health Concerns and Research Priorities, including questions regarding the frequency and impact of 69 SSc symptoms. Descriptive analyses were performed dichotomizing symptom frequencies as never or rarely vs sometimes, most of the time or always and symptom impact on daily activities as no or minimal impact vs moderate to severe impact.

Results: The five highest rated symptoms in terms of frequency and moderate to severe impact on daily activities, respectively, were: fatigue (89 and 72%), RP (86 and 67%), hand stiffness (81 and 59%), joint pain (81 and 64%) and difficulty sleeping (76 and 59%). In addition to these symptoms, items related to decreased hand function (difficulty making a fist and difficulty holding objects) and pain (muscle pain and joint tenderness) were frequently endorsed and commonly associated with moderate to severe impact on daily activities.

Conclusion: This study confirmed the importance for quality of life of core symptoms of SSc, such as pain, fatigue and limitations in hand function. It also identified areas with very little research, such as sleep problems, that appear to play important roles in daily functioning, and that merit more focused study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthralgia / epidemiology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hand Joints / physiopathology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / ethnology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*