Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a rare and potentially life threatening autoimmune disorder. The burden of disease compared to other dermatoses is unknown. The purpose of this study was to assess both the quality of life in patients with SSc and the variables that are associated with poor quality of life. Forty-one patients with systemic sclerosis (29 limited, 2 diffuse, 10 undifferentiated forms) were assessed with respect to their health status and compared to published data for the normal population, SSc patients from other studies, and patients with chronic skin diseases.
For the most part, our SSc patients had better outcomes in all 8 dimensions of the SF-36 than SSc patients from other studies, and poorer scores than the healthy population and those with occupational contact dermatitis, ichthyosis, non-melanoma skin cancer, contact dermatitis, atopic eczema, chronic nail disease, vitiligo, health care workers with work-related disease, and those with other chronic skin diseases, but significantly better scores for mental health than those with nail disease, vitiligo, and health-care workers. Patients with atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and pemphigus had significantly poorer mean scores in social function and mental health than SSc patients. Patients with pemphigus were also significantly impaired in their physical and emotional roles. Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) had the significantly poorest mean scores for QoL in all 8 domains except bodily pain and emotional role.
Besides SLE, SSc is one of the most severe chronic dermatologic diseases in terms of reduced QoL. Since SSc cannot be cured, treatment strategies should include therapeutic interventions such as psychotherapy, social support, physiotherapy, and spiritual care. Their beneficial effects could be studied in future.