Controversies on the use of steroids in systemic sclerosis


The use of corticosteroids in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) always requires caution (especially because corticosteroids are a risk factor for scleroderma renal crisis [SRC]), and is often controversial. This review focuses on the main area of controversy, that is whether corticosteroids should be prescribed in patients with early diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc). The arguments for and against corticosteroids in this clinical situation are presented, along with two case histories to illustrate the clinical dilemma. In favour of corticosteroids, is that these might suppress the musculoskeletal manifestations and itch that are so disabling in early disease, the argument against is that patients with early dcSSc are those at highest risk of SRC. That current opinion is divided amongst clinicians is evidenced by a roughly even split between patients previously prescribed and those not prescribed corticosteroids in the recent European Scleroderma Observational Study of early dcSSc (43% of 326 patients were on corticosteroids at their baseline visit or had previously been prescribed these). Other clinical situations in which corticosteroids may be considered in patients with SSc (mainly overlap syndromes and pulmonary involvement) are briefly discussed. Finally, some additional concerns relating to corticosteroid use specifically in patients with SSc are highlighted.

J scleroderma relat disord 2017; 2(2): 84 - 91

Article Type: REVIEW



Ariane L. Herrick

Article History


Financial support: No grants or funding have been received for this study.
Conflict of interest: None of the authors has financial interest related to this study to disclose.

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  • Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, The University of Manchester, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, Manchester - UK
  • NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, Manchester - UK

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