Indexed on: 14 Jun '06Published on: 14 Jun '06Published in: Rheumatology International
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a chronic connective tissue disease characterized by fibrosis and destruction of the microvasculature. Increased deposition of collagen and other extracellular matrix components affects not only the skin but most of the internal organs including lungs, heart, kidneys and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Within the GI tract, esophageal involvements are most frequently seen features. However, abnormalities in the small intestine, colon and anorectum may also occur. A retrospective study was performed to investigate the frequency and clinical relevances of GI involvement in patients with SSc. Charts of altogether 246 SSc patients were reviewed. This patient population included 40 males and 206 females, with a mean age of 54.2 years. In general, 176 of 246 patients (71.5%) had GI symptoms. Esophageal involvement including gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), aperistalsis, pseudodiverticuli, etc. was the most common (62.6%). In addition, diseases of the stomach (31.7%), dysfunctions of the colon and anorectum (11.4%), as well as sclerosis of the biliary tract and other pancreato-biliary disorders (9.8%) also occurred. Diarrhea and malabsorption resulted in cachexia and other secondary complications leading to death in two cases. Our results support that GI manifestations are rather common in SSc. Apart from the esophagus, other GI complications in SSc are usually mild, however, early recognition is necessary to improve quality of life.