Skin involvement in early diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis: an unmet clinical need

Ariane L Herrick, Shervin Assassi, Christopher P Denton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis (dcSSc) is associated with high mortality resulting from early internal-organ involvement. Clinicians therefore tend to focus on early diagnosis and treatment of potentially life-threatening cardiorespiratory and renal disease. However, the rapidly progressive painful, itchy skin tightening that characterizes dcSSc is the symptom that has the greatest effect on patients' quality of life, and there is currently no effective disease-modifying treatment for it. Considerable advances have been made in predicting the extent and rate of skin-disease progression (which vary between patients), including the development of techniques such as molecular analysis of skin biopsy samples. Risk stratification for progressive skin disease is especially relevant now that haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation is a treatment option, because stratification will inform the balance of risk versus benefit for each patient. Measurement of skin disease is a major challenge. Results from clinical trials have highlighted limitations of the modified Rodnan skin score (the current gold standard). Alternative patient-reported and other potential outcome measures have been and are being developed. Patients with early dcSSc should be referred to specialist centres to ensure best-practice management, including the management of their skin disease, and to maximize opportunities for inclusion in clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-285
Number of pages10
JournalNature Reviews. Rheumatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse/complications
  • Skin/pathology
  • Skin Diseases/diagnosis


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