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The challenge of early systemic sclerosis for the EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research group (EUSTAR) community. It is time to cut the Gordian knot and develop a prevention or rescue strategy

Abstract

Early diagnosis of systemic sclerosis (SSc) may allow the start of treatment that could slow disease progression. For this reason early diagnosis of the disease is of pivotal importance. However, the lack of diagnostic criteria and valid predictors significantly limit patient evaluation and the use of potentially effective drugs in the earliest phase of SSc. Early SSc may be suspected on the basis of Raynaud's phenomenon, puffy fingers, autoantibodies and SSc capillaroscopic pattern. In practice, the aim is to have criteria for the diagnosis of very early SSc. The criteria that are proposed are obviously provisional and need to be validated: (a) initially through a Delphi technique; (b) thereafter perhaps using already available datasets; but (c) of critical importance, through prospective studies. Only after prospective studies can these potential criteria be considered validated. The consensus on criteria for the classification of very early SSc might be part of the evolving EULAR/ACR project of reclassification of SSc.

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