Chronic venous insufficiency – a potential trigger for localized scleroderma


*Corresponding author, J.W. Goethe University, Department of Dermatology, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt, Germany, tel. +049-69-6301-6840; fax +049-69-6301-7139; E-mail:


Localized scleroderma is a cutaneous disease that is characterized by an initial inflammatory response, followed by sclerosis of the skin. The cause of localized scleroderma has not yet been determined. Seifarth et al. reported two cases of localized scleroderma at sites of chronic venous insufficiency. We document here three more patients in whom localized scleroderma was located at insufficient veins. Treatment of underlying chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) leads to a substantial clinical improvement of scleroderma at the site of insufficient veins, but not elsewhere. Experimental data support the concept of chronic venous insufficiency creating a microenvironment, which may lead to localized scleroderma. Local hypoxaemia, which is present in CVI, induces the release of endothelium-derived cytokines, such as IL-1. Subsequently, expression of endothelial adhesion molecules and consequently leucocyte extravasation are induced. Infiltrating leucocytes secrete a number of inflammatory mediators, including transforming growth factor β, which is a potent stimulus for collagen synthesis. Therefore, it may well be that CVI is a potential trigger factor for localized scleroderma. In addition, localized scleroderma may only develop if a certain amount of trigger factors are present – and resolves if one or more of the contributing factors (i.e. CVI) can be treated.