The prevalence of scleroderma-type capillary abnormalities, as observed by in vivo microscopy, was determined in 173 patients from three rheumatic disease centers. The patients had a variety of connective tissue diseases: scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) 50; systemic lupus erythematosus 60; mixed connective disease 26; Raynaud's disease 11; other rheumatic disorders 26. Enlarged and deformed capillary loops surrounded by relatively avascular areas, most prominently in the nail-folds, were found in 82% of patients with scleroderma and in 54% with mixed connective tissue disease. The rarity of these abnormalities in systemic lupus erythematosus (2%) despite the presence of Raynaud's phenomenon suggests that they are not an expression of the Raynaud's phenomenon frequently associated with scleroderma and mixed connective tissue disease. The single patient with Raynaud's disease and sclerodermatype capillary changes subsequently developed scleroderma.