What causes CREST syndrome?

Updated: Oct 05, 2020
  • Author: Jeanie C Yoon, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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The cause of limited scleroderma is yet to be determined. Studies of genetic factors show only rare occasions of multicase families. HLA associations are present but are not strong. These include HLA-DRB*01, HLADRB*11, HLA-A*30, and HLA-A*32 showing increased susceptibility to scleroderma and HLA-DRB*07, HLA-B*57, and HLA-Cw*14 being protective. [26]

The predominance of cases occurring in women after their childbearing years and the similar clinical presentation of scleroderma to graft versus host disease has suggested the importance of fetal/maternal microchimerism in the etiology of scleroderma.

Environmental factors also are likely important. Some similarities in clinical presentation occur with L-tryptophan and rapeseed oil exposure. Certain occupations have been linked to an increased risk to systemic sclerosis, including female teachers, female textile workers, and construction workers. Exposure to silica, synthetic adhesives, solvents (including chlorinated solvents, aromatic solvents, white spirit, toluene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and cleaning products) have been implicated in a higher risk of developing systemic sclerosis. Interestingly, the use of vibrating tools was also found to increase the risk of systemic sclerosis. [27, 28]

The pathogenesis of calcinosis, Raynaud phenomenon, esophageal dysmotility, and sclerodactyly are described in more detail.

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