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Antitopoisomerase antibody positivity predates nailfold capillaroscopy abnormalities in scleroderma. Postulated classification of ‘prescleroderma’

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In a patient with early topoisomerase antibody‐positive scleroderma, antinuclear antibody positivity was fortuitously observed to predate nailfold capillaroscopy changes. Using this case as a template, the prediagnostic phase of the presumed multifactorial disease may be divided into 5 temporal phases – phase 1 representing conception and intrauterine environment, phase 2 representing the extrauterine environment predating environmental exposure; phase 3 representing the early post‐environmental exposure interval with no detectable perturbed body status; phase 4 representing the post‐environmental exposure interval characterized by autoantibody production and microvascular changes, and phase 5, the symptomatic clinical prediagnostic interval (Raynaud's, skin, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, cardiorespiratory) prompting scleroderma diagnosis. Temporal classification of prescleroderma aids in both the understanding and definition of scleroderma ‘onset’. If altered nailfold capillaries and autoantibodies develop at comparable rates, and if the findings from this case – that autoantibody changes precede microvascular changes – are truly representative of the preclinical disease phase, then these findings argue that the evolution of the disease is from within the vessel outwards, rather than vice versa.
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Keywords: autoantibody; nailfold capillaroscopy; prediagnostic staging; scleroderma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Rheumatology Department, Westmead Hospital 2: Rheumatology Department 3: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 4: Vascular Medicine, St Vincent's Hospital

Publication date: 01 February 2011

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