Evolving Symptom Characteristics of Raynaud's Phenomenon in Systemic Sclerosis and Their Association With Physician and Patient-Reported Assessments of Disease Severity

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Aug;71(8):1119-1126. doi: 10.1002/acr.23729. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Objective: Assessment of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is reliant on self-report. The Raynaud's Condition Score (RCS) diary assumes discrete episodic RP attacks, although not all SSc patients identify with this paradigm. We investigated the clinical associations of SSc-RP symptom characteristics and the evolution of SSc-RP symptoms with disease progression.

Methods: A cross-sectional study at UK and US sites captured digital color changes of SSc-RP and patients' ability to identify with diagrammatic representations (and descriptive stems) of 4 distinct theoretical SSc-RP patterns (progressing severity A through D) reflecting progressively severe SSc-RP experiences. SSc-RP self-management and symptom evolution were explored. Patient demographics, the clinical phenotype, the Scleroderma Health Assessment Questionnaire (SHAQ), the 2-week RCS diary, and patient and physician global assessments were collected.

Results: We enrolled 107 patients with SSc (with questionnaires returned by 94). A higher number of self-reported digital color changes of SSc-RP were associated with increased SSc-RP symptom severity but not with the SSc clinical phenotype. Patients could identify with distinct patterns of SSc-RP. These patterns were associated with disease duration, global disease severity, and conceptually linked physician and patient assessments of peripheral vascular severity (e.g., SHAQ RP subscale and RCS diary parameters), but not with conceptually unrelated outcomes (e.g., SHAQ breathing subscale). SSc-RP characteristics and symptom severity evolve during the disease course.

Conclusion: Patients identify with distinct patterns of SSc-RP that may relate to progression of the obliterative microangiopathy of SSc. Difficulty distinguishing discrete SSc-RP attacks from persistent digital ischemia in patients with advanced SSc could influence diary-based approaches to assessing SSc-RP, with implications for future clinical trials.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Raynaud Disease / diagnosis*
  • Raynaud Disease / etiology*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications*
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires