The overwhelming majority of patients with PSS present with combinations of Raynaud's phenomenon, sclerodactyly, polyarthralgias, or swelling of an extremity. However, the clinical presentation of PSS may be atypical; 14% of patients in the present series initially sought medical attention for symptoms other than Raynaud's phenomenon, tight skin, or joint pain. In the present series, only 31% of patients fulfilled the ARA criteria for PSS at the time of initial medical evaluation. Most patients manifested advanced disease by the time the criteria were fulfilled. The ARA criteria for the classification of PSS appear to have limited value with regard to making the diagnosis in an individual patient. Rapidly progressive PSS occurred in 17.6% of patients in this series and represents a particularly fulminant form of the disease whose course may not be predictable on clinical grounds at the time of initial medical evaluation or diagnosis. Patients destined to develop renal or cardiorespiratory failure usually do so in the first 3 years of disease. Close observation of PSS patients during the first 12 to 18 months may serve to identify those individuals who will undergo an accelerated disease course. Prognosis for patients with rapidly progressive PSS is poor and is associated with significantly higher mortality compared with patients with a more protracted disease course. Future therapeutic trials in PSS should be designed with the recognition that a subgroup of patients with this disorder will have a rapidly progressive disease course.