Objectives: To describe differences in clinical presentation between men and women in a large group of patients with early (<3 years' duration) systemic sclerosis (SSc) according to disease subsets.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of the prospective EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research database (EUSTAR) was performed. Patients fulfilling preliminary ACR 1980 classification criteria for SSc, with less than 3 years from the first non-Raynaud's symptom at first entry, were selected. A group of patients with less than 3 years from the first SSc symptom, including Raynaud's phenomenon, was also analysed. SSc related variables, including antibodies, SSc subsets, disease activity and organ involvement were included. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were performed.
Results: A total of 1,027 patients were included, 90% Caucasian, 80% women, and 40% with diffuse cutaneous disease. In early stages of SSc, men showed more frequently than women active disease, diffuse cutaneous subset, anti-Scl-70 antibodies, elevated acute phase reactants, muscular and pulmonary involvement. Differences between men and women were confirmed in the limited, but not in the diffuse SSc subset. The results were similar when 650 patients with less than three years from the first SSc symptom, including Raynaud's phenomenon, were analysed.
Conclusions: In early stages of SSc, men present signs and symptoms of more severe disease. In the limited disease subset, men might appear with clinical features and organ involvement similar to those of the diffuse subgroup. In clinical practice, the identification of such differences might help to select the appropriate management for each particular patient.