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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2007 May;46(5):872-6. Epub 2007 Feb 17.

Appearance self-esteem in systemic sclerosis--subjective experience of skin deformity and its relationship with physician-assessed skin involvement, disease status and psychological variables.

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  • 11Department of Rheumatology, St Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



To determine the importance of skin deformity in systemic sclerosis (SSc) relative to other disease stressors and to find psychological correlates of appearance self-esteem (ASE) after controlling for disease status.


Disease-related stressors, symptoms, physical and psychological functioning, social support, coping styles, cognitions and ASE were assessed in 123 patients with SSc. A rheumatologist determined disease duration, SSc subtype, presence of organ involvement and skin-thickness scores. Stepwise hierarchical regression analysis of disease-related cognitions on ASE was performed after controlling for selected variables.


Skin deformities proved a core stressor of the disease, only preceded by fatigue. Physician-assessed disease status, including modified Rodnan skin score, was unrelated to ASE. Sex, self-reported functioning and symptoms were related to ASE and used as control variables. Both acceptance and anxiety correlated strongly with ASE. The stepwise regression procedure only identified the disease-related cognition acceptance.


In SSc, ASE proved unrelated to the extent of skin thickness. Psychological interventions aimed at boosting ASE should primarily target the psychological factors acceptance and anxiety.

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