, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 885-888

Peripheral neuropathy: a complication of systemic sclerosis

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We performed bedside testing for peripheral neuropathy in our systemic sclerosis (SSc) population to determine whether foot care guidelines should be developed for SSc. Twenty consecutive SSc patients and 20 healthy control (HC) patients were evaluated for peripheral neuropathy in both feet using the 10-g Semmes–Weinstein monofilament examination (SWME) and 128 Hz vibration sensation using the on–off method. Independent, blinded, vibratory sensation, and SWME evaluations were performed on each subject by two investigators who had completed a training session to standardize each exam. An additional consecutive 20 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) were examined by a diabetologist to compare with peripheral neuropathy prevalence in SSc patients. We examined the inter-rater variability using Cohen’s kappa. We compared SWME and vibratory sensation in SSc to HC using Fisher’s exact. The t test was used to compare duration of disease and modified Rodnan skin score (mRSS) for those with abnormal SWME or vibratory sensation. Two of 20 SSc patients reported sensory foot symptoms consistent with peripheral neuropathy prior to the examination. Inter-rater agreement for both SWME and vibratory sensation was strong (kappa: 0.72 and 0.83, respectively). Two HC and 12 SSc patients demonstrated abnormal vibratory sense (one-sided Fishers’ exact, p < 0.002). No HC and four SSc patients had abnormal monofilament exams (one-sided Fisher’s exact, p = 0.053). Neither mRSS (p = 0.28) nor duration of non-Raynauds (p = 0.07) symptoms differed between those with peripheral neuropathy and those without. Duration of Raynaud’s symptoms were clinically significantly associated with presence of peripheral neuropathy (p = 0.04). The prevalence of sensory loss to monofilament in SSc was identical to DM patients (4/20). SSc patients have a considerable prevalence of pedal peripheral neuropathy as detected by loss of vibratory sensation or inability to sense the 10-g SWME. Further studies are indicated to determine if routine screening for neuropathy and subsequent podiatric care for SSc patients with abnormalities can reduce pedal complications.