September 17, 2018
2 min read

Patients with systemic sclerosis, SLE overlap younger at diagnosis, lack skin symptoms

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Sindhu R. Johnson

Patients with systemic sclerosis that overlaps with systemic lupus erythematous are generally younger at the time of diagnosis, more frequently demonstrate pulmonary arterial hypertension and less often have cutaneous sclerosis symptoms, according to recent findings in the Journal of Rheumatology.

“Patients with features of both systemic sclerosis — also called scleroderma, or SSc — and systemic lupus erythematous are seen in our clinics and hospitals, but very little is known about how these patients compare with patients who have systemic sclerosis without features of systemic lupus erythematous,” Sindhu R. Johnson, MD, PhD, of Toronto Western Hospital, told Healio Rheumatology. “The aim of this study was to investigate the epidemiology of SSc-SLE overlap patients, specifically prevalence, disease manifestations and survival.”

To analyze the prevalence of SSc-SLE overlap, the differences in SSc symptoms and characteristics, and survival compared with SSc without SLE, Johnson and colleagues conducted a cohort study of 1,252 patients aged 16 years and older at the Toronto Scleroderma Program, a health network made up of Toronto Western Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto General Hospital. Among the participants, 1,166 had SSc and 86 demonstrated SSc-SLE overlap.

The researchers followed up with participants every 6 to 12 months, with the primary outcome identified as the time from diagnosis to all-cause mortality. Johnson and colleagues used Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazard models to analyze survival. Participants alive as of Jan. 1, 2017 were censored, the researchers wrote.

According to the researchers, 6.8% of participants demonstrated SSc-SLE overlap. In addition, patients with SSc-SLE overlap were younger at diagnosis (P < .001), were more frequently East Asian or South Asian, and more frequently demonstrated pulmonary arterial hypertension (P < .001). However, such patients were also less likely to have calcinosis (P = .007), telangiectasia (P < .001) or diffuse subtype (P < .001).

“There was no difference in the occurrence of renal crisis, interstitial lung disease and digital ulcers,” Johnson said. “Having both SSc and SLE does not confer worsening mortality as both groups had comparable survival. The takeaway here is that the occurrence of both SSc and SLE is not infrequent. Despite the lack of diffuse skin involvement, SSc-SLE overlap patients should be monitored for renal crisis, interstitial lung disease and digital ulcers. Having SLE with SSc does not worsen survival.” – by Jason Laday

Disclosure: Johnson reports support from the Oscar and Eleanor Markovitz Fund for Scleroderma Research of the Arthritis Research Foundation, and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Clinician Scientist award. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.