The importance of skin manifestations, serology and nailfold (video)capillaroscopy in morphea and systemic sclerosis: current understanding and new insights

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2021 Mar;35(3):597-606. doi: 10.1111/jdv.16813. Epub 2020 Aug 5.


Since the field around morphea and systemic sclerosis (SSc) is evolving rapidly, this review approaches conventional as well as more recent clinical developments from a dermatological point of view. Skin manifestations are critical in sub-classifying these diseases ensuring a correct prognosis for these patients. They can be discretely present, and therefore, diagnosis can be challenging sometimes, implicating a thorough dermatological examination is mandatory. Furthermore, a growing amount of dermatologists perform nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC), a more recent reliable non-invasive imaging technique used for in vivo assessment of the microcirculation at the nailfold. After all, specific NVC-changes are present in a majority of patients with SSc. This way, dermatologists not only take part in the diagnosis process through clinical investigation but also through the use of a modern state of the art imaging technique that is becoming the golden standard in SSc multidisciplinary workup. In this review, current understandings for NVC in morphea and SSc are revised. So far, the role of NVC in the diagnosis/prognosis/classification of morphea patients has not been thoroughly investigated to make proper conclusions. As for SSc, it is well known that NVC contributes to the diagnosis and can make a fundamental difference especially when obvious clinical SSc signs are absent. This review emphasizes the (somewhat underestimated) role of dermatologists in the process of diagnosis and follow-up, and thus, the difference we can make for our patients and fellow colleagues in the multidisciplinary workup of SSc and morphea.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Capillaries
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation
  • Microscopic Angioscopy
  • Nails
  • Scleroderma, Localized* / diagnosis
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / complications
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / diagnosis