Affiliation: Medical University – Plovdiv, Department of Propedeutics in Internal Medicine, Clinic of Rheumatology, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Plovdiv – 4002, 15A “Vasil Aprilov” Blvd, Bulgaria.
Digital ulcers (DUs) are among the most frequent and disabling vascular complications in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). The etiology and pathogenesis of DUs differs depending on the lesion localization. For this reason the underlying etiologic and pathogenetic factors will guide the therapeutic decision. The main pathogenic mechanism that contributes to the development of fingertip DUs is ischemia owing to SSc-related vasculopathy. DUs over bony prominences are mainly a result of skin fibrosis, epidermal thinning and mechanical friction. At the areas of subcutaneous calcinosis DUs can develop as a result of mechanical friction and inflammation. Thus, in cases of DUs over bony prominences and calcinosis, avoidance of trauma and skin care are main measures of primary prophylaxis. In pure ischemic DUs, a combination of vasodilators (calcium channel blockers (CCBs), intravenous prostanoid, phosphodiesterase inhibitors) and antiplatelet drugs should be applied. Despite the lack of controlled trials addressing the administration of antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants in DUs in the context of SSc, the current knowledge about the platelet and coagulation dysfunction leads to their frequent administration from the leading experts in the field of SSc. In our opinion, as more powerful agents, anticoagulants should be considered in severe cases of development of digital gangrenes. Analgetics and antibiotics may be indicated and local treatment is a mandatory care. Currently, the EUSTAR recommendations for the treatment of RP and DUs in SSc include CCBs, intravenous prostanoids and endothelin receptor antagonists. Although for the inclusion of other options in the official recommendations, their efficacy should be confirmed by controlled clinical trials, they are routinely used in the leading scleroderma-centers based on the current knowledge about the pathogenesis of development of DUs in SSc.