Systemic sclerosis (ScS) is very heterogeneous in its clinical presentation and its therapeutic care is not codified. A better knowledge of the patients’ needs and complaints could improve the patient educational strategies and their global care.
A self-administered questionnaire aimed to the ScS patient was developed by subspecialty physicians and nurses involved in patient education. It was a cross-sectional study that also included several validated scales: the health control locus scale, the Mactar, HAD and sHAQ scales.
One hundred and eight patients (91 women; 18 limited ScS, 71 limited cutaneous ScS, 19 diffuse ScS) filled in the questionnaires. Fatigue was the main complaint in all types of ScS, independently of the ScS type. The aesthetic discomfort mentioned by the patients suffering from cutaneous sclerosis or from telangectasia was important and reached 52±33mm on a 100-mm visual scale. It was more common in the patients presenting a diffuse form of the illness but the difference did not reach a statistical significance (P=0.06). Twenty-seven percent of the patients said they were very or extremely worried because of the degradation of their physical appearance. The functional discomfort linked to the cutaneous sclerosis was rated 50±32mm on a 100-mm visual scale. The intensity of the pain, the importance of the functional discomfort linked to the sclerosis and the intensity of the dyspnea were correlated to the sHAQ (P<0.001). Patients having more frequent recurrent digital ulcers had higher sHAQ scores (P=0.04). The repercussions on the professional life were linked to fatigue first, to the Raynaud’s syndrome and to arthralgia. The repercussions on the personal life were mainly linked to the fatigue, the pain and the dyspnea. The patients’ compliance was good.
Fatigue, pain, dyspnea and discomfort linked to sclerosis are major chronic symptoms of the patients with ScS. Identifying the needs and complaints of the patients with ScS should help to improve their care by implementation of an educational program.