What are the signs and symptoms of systemic sclerosis (SSc)?

Updated: Apr 16, 2019
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Systemic sclerosis can have many different presentations. It involves the skin and many internal organs. Therefore, the presenting symptoms may differ among patients.

Cutaneous pruritus is common.

Raynaud phenomenon, or whitening of the hands on exposure to cold, is a common finding. Pain in the affected digits, blanching, cyanosis, and hyperemia can follow.

Difficulty in swallowing solid foods can be followed by difficulty with swallowing liquids and subsequent nausea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal cramps, blotting diarrhea, and fecal incontinence.

The patient can have shortness of breath on exertion and, subsequently, at rest. Palpitations may occur without characteristic pain in thoracic cavity. The patient may have a nonproductive cough. Atypical chest pain, fatigue, dyspnea, and hypertension may be present.

Joint pain, limitation of movement, joint swelling, and muscle pain may be present. Systemic sclerosis begins as joint pain in 15% of patients. It begins as inflammatory myopathy in 10% of patients. Weakness is present in 80% of patients.


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