The diagnosis and classification of scleroderma (systemic sclerosis)

A. J. Barnett, M. Miller, G. O. Littlejohn

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Difficulty in the diagnosis of the disease scleroderma may occur at the early stage prior to the development of obvious skin sclerosis. A presumptive diagnosis may be made if Raynaud's phenomenon is accompanied by a positive 'neck test', 'scleroderma' capillary changes in the nailfolds or antinuclear antibodies. Definitive diagnosis may have to be delayed for several years from the onset of Raynaud's phenomenon until definite characteristic skin changes are seen. Ten cases in which an earlier diagnosis of scleroderma was not substantiated are listed. The earlier incorrect diagnosis would have been avoided by use of the methods described in this paper. Various terms have been used to denote subdivisions of scleroderma. These include acrosclerosis, diffuse scleroderma and CREST. We have used the terms Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 based on the early extent of the skin sclerosis were Type 1 (limited extent) indicates sclerodactyly only, Type 2 (moderate extent) indicates sclerosis proximal to the metacarpophalangeal joints but excluding the trunk and Type 3 (extensive) indicates diffuse skin sclerosis including the trunk. The clinical value of this simple classification is reviewed and contrasted to other classifications which appear to be poorly defined and of limited use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-125
Number of pages5
JournalPostgraduate Medical Journal
Issue number748
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1988

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