Recent advances in the pathogenesis and management of Raynaud's phenomenon and digital ulcers

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Purpose of review

Systemic sclerosis (SSc)-related digital vasculopathy can progress from severe Raynaud's phenomenon to digital ulceration, is a major cause of pain and disability, and impacts negatively on quality of life. Current treatments are often ineffective and poorly tolerated. This review summarises some of the progress which has been made in the last 12 to 18 months in terms of our understanding of disease process, measurement and treatment.

Recent findings

The most important findings include that we can now better predict which patients with SSc are most likely to develop digital ulcers. In terms of treatment, a multicentre trial showed that the phosphodiesterase inhibitor sildenafil confers some benefit in SSc-related digital ulceration. Topical therapies are being explored: iontophoresis of vasodilators increases local blood flow, and in an avian model, VEGF121 fibrin applied in a gel matrix improved wound healing.


Progress is being made. Advances in our understanding of SSc-related vasculopathy continue to lead to exploration of new treatment approaches. Clinical trials and observational studies are challenging, but are being facilitated by developments in outcome measures and improved infrastructures and networking, allowing trials in much larger numbers of patients than have previously been possible.

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