Study Finds New Risk Factors for Organ Damage in Scleroderma

According to a story from Scleroderma News, a recent study has identified a host of risk factors that can increase a patient’s likelihood of experiencing progressive organ damage. The identification of these factors represents a critical advance in the understanding of the disease and will allow caregivers to identify patients that are at greatest risk and take appropriate prophylactic steps.

About Scleroderma

Scleroderma, which is also referred to as systemic sclerosis, describes a group of autoimmune diseases that can cause system-wide effects in the most severe cases. The mechanism of this disease is believed to be an autoimmune response in which the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue. Some factors that may contribute to triggering the autoimmune response include mutations of the HLA genes and exposure to certain materials, such as certain solvents, white spirits, ketones, and silica. Symptoms are broad ranging and systemic, including kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, stroke, headaches, facial pain, congestive heart failure, skin abnormalities, high blood pressure, chest pain, indigestion, and many more. Treatments are varied and depend on the symptoms, but most patients take medications in an attempt to suppress the autoimmune response. In severe cases, life expectancy is around 11 years from onset. To learn more about scleroderma, click here.

About The Study

The international team of scientists drew upon data from the EUSTAR database which included records from around 15,000 scleroderma patients. Risk factors for organ damage that the researchers identified included older age, elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), muscle weakness, active digital ulcers, and scarring of the lung tissue. 

The team narrowed down their focus to 706 patients that had their first evaluation in 2009 or later and had either a follow up or died nine to fifteen months afterward. The researchers found that the risk of disease progression for the entire population was around 32.2 percent, but this jumped up to 74.5 percent in a patient that displayed all of the listed risk factors. 

The scientists said that these findings could not only have implications for treatment but could also contribute to the design of future clinical trials that are focused on scleroderma.

Check out the original study here in the scientific journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

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