Forty-three female patients with systemic sclerosis divided into subgroups based on the extent of skin involvement and the presence of calcinosis, and 50 sex and age-matched healthy controls were investigated for bone mineral density (BMD) on the basis of radial (dual photon absorptiometry, Osteograph, NIM), lumbar, and total body measurements (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, Lunar DPX, Lunar Corp.), and for parameters of calcium metabolism. The patients showed a lower BMD (mean +/- SD; mg/cm2) than the controls at the radial (313 +/- 69 vs 347 +/- 73; p < 0.005), lumbar (974 +/- 143 vs 1081 +/- 154; p < 0.005), and total body (997 +/- 82 vs 1075 +/- 109; p < 0.05) determinations. The patients with the diffuse form of skin involvement had lower values than those with the limited form. There was a negative correlation between BMD and the duration of the disease. The presence of calcinosis was not found to have any effect on BMD. Calcium metabolism was found to be normal in each subgroup. It may be concluded that generalized osteoporosis is a feature of systemic sclerosis, with and without calcinosis. The extent and duration of the disease may play a role in determining bone loss.
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