Gastrointestinal involvement in systemic sclerosis: An updated review

Medicine (Baltimore). 2022 Nov 11;101(45):e31780. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000031780.


The gastrointestinal tract (GI) is the second most affected organ system in individuals suffering from systemic/localized scleroderma (SSc) or localized scleroderma. SSc can affect any part of the GI, between the oral cavity and anorectum. The annual incidence of SSc in the United States is estimated to be 19.3 cases per million adults, with the highest incidence reported in people aged 44 to 55. Females are 5 times more likely than males to suffer from SSc. Morbidity and mortality rates associated with SSc are predominantly elevated among patients with GI manifestations. Esophageal and intestinal manifestations impact 90% and 40% to 70% of patients with systemic scleroderma, respectively. SSc patients are known to suffer from small bowel hypomotility and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which cause malabsorption and malnutrition, ultimately contributing to the 50% mortality rate. Fecal incontinence is a common symptom of SSc that can lead to depression. SSc patients may suffer from gastrointestinal complications that can negatively impact their quality of life on a daily basis. Multidisciplinary approaches are necessary for systematically managing gastrointestinal complications associated with SSc. A prospective study should focus on developing targeted therapies to improve recovery patterns and prognosis in cases of SSc. This article summarizes the epidemiology, commonly reported clinical manifestations, complications, and available treatments for treating GI pathology in SSc patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Scleroderma, Localized* / complications
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / complications
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / epidemiology