Large descriptive studies of pain in systemic sclerosis (SSc) are lacking. The present study estimated prevalence, severity, and associations between SSc clinical variables and pain in all patients with SSc and in limited cutaneous (lcSSc) and diffuse cutaneous (dcSSc) subsets.
Patients enrolled in a multicenter SSc registry (n = 585) completed a standardized clinical assessment and questionnaires about their physical and psychosocial health, including a pain severity numerical rating scale (NRS; range 0–10). Pain prevalence and severity were estimated with descriptive statistics. Crude and adjusted associations between specific SSc clinical variables and pain were estimated with linear regression for the entire group and by SSc subtype.
Of the patients, 484 (83%) reported pain (268 [46%] mild pain [NRS 1–4], 155 [27%] moderate pain [NRS 5–7], and 61 [10%] severe pain [NRS 8–10]). More frequent episodes of Raynaud's phenomenon, active ulcers, worse synovitis, and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms were associated with pain in multivariate analysis adjusting for demographic variables, depressive symptoms, and comorbid conditions. Patients with dcSSc reported only slightly higher mean ± SD pain than those with lcSSc (dcSSc 3.9 ± 2.8 versus lcSSc 3.4 ± 2.7; Hedges's g = 0.18, P = 0.05). Regression estimates did not differ significantly between SSc subsets.
Pain symptoms were common in the present study of patients with SSc and were independently associated with more frequent episodes of Raynaud's phenomenon, active ulcers, worse synovitis, and GI symptoms. Subsetting by extent of skin involvement was only minimally related to pain severity and did not affect associations with clinical variables. More attention to pain and how to best manage it is needed in SSc.