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Lupus. 2005;14(7):521-5.

Nailfold capillaroscopy changes in systemic lupus erythematosus: correlations with disease activity and autoantibody profile.

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Cattedra di Reumatologia, Dipartimento di Clinica e Terapia Medica Applicata, Università "La Sapienza", Rome, Italy.


In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) nailfold capillaroscopy (NC) studies have described many different nonspecific patterns. We decided to evaluate NC changes in 44 SLE patients, comparing them with the main clinical, demographic and laboratory parameters, thus to define the real role for NC and its abnormalities in the management of this disease. Fifteen patients (34%) complained of Raynaud's phenomenon; nine of them (20%) showed relevant capillaroscopic changes (capillaroscopic score >1). In details: three patients (6.8%) had loss of capillaries, while 18 (41%) had a capillary length variability, 16 (36.5%) showing shorter and two (4.5%) longer capillaries; tortuous, meandering, bizarre, ramified and/or bushy capillaries were found in 26 (59%), seven (16%), two (4.5%), three (7%) cases, respectively. An irregular distribution of the capillary array was present in six cases (14%) while microhaemorrhages were found in four cases (9%). 4 patients (9%) showed enlarged capillaries and changes of blood flow. A capillaroscopic score >1 was more frequently associated with higher ECLAM (P < 0.005) and SLEDAI (P < 0.01) activity scores, with the presence of anti-cardiolipin (P < 0.04) and anti-Sm (P < 0.04) antibodies, and also with the presence (P < 0.04) and higher titer (P < 0.001) of anti-dsDNA antibodies. No statistically significant correlation was found among the different capillaroscopy findings, age, disease duration, or treatment, nor with any clinical manifestation of the disease, such as cutaneous, renal or neurological. Our findings confirm the importance of the microvascular involvement in SLE. The NC abnormalities seem to be related to the disease activity and to the presence of many different antibodies, highly involved in the expression of SLE. NC proved to be an easy-to-perform noninvasive technique, able to achieve useful data to better evaluate such a pleomorphic disease as SLE.

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