Early systemic sclerosis-opportunities for treatment
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is characterized by microvasculopathy (Raynaud's phenomenon and fibrointimal proliferation), presence of autoantibodies and collagen deposition in skin (scleroderma) and internal organs. Microvasculopathy, detected by nailfold capillaroscopy, and disease-specific autoantibodies (anti-topoisomerase I, anti-centromere, anti-RNA polymerase III antibodies) usually appear earlier, even years before scleroderma. At that stage of the disease, immune activation with T cells and B cells promote fibrosis. Diagnosis of SSc has been relied on scleroderma, and by this time, internal organs may have developed fibrosis, a lethal feature with no available treatment. The new EULAR/ACR 2013 criteria for the classification of SSc will help identify SSc patients before fibrosis of internal organs. The early diagnosis of SSc, before the development of fibrosis in internal organs, will allow the introduction of immunosuppressive medications in these patients in a controlled setting (randomized trials). It is anticipated that this approach will change the hitherto grim prognosis of SSc for the better.