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Systemic Sclerosis in Males-Deciphering the Enigma of Erasmus Syndrome.

BACKGROUND: Systemic sclerosis is an autoimmune connective tissue disease characterized by fibrosis in skin and internal organs. Chronic exposure to silica may not only lead to silicosis of lungs but also systemic sclerosis. Systemic sclerosis is relatively commoner in females; however, occupational exposure to silica in males makes them vulnerable to silica--associated systemic sclerosis (Erasmus syndrome).

OBJECTIVE: To describe the clinico-epidemiological aspects of systemic sclerosis in males in a retrospective cohort study.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The data were analysed retrospectively for demographic profile and clinical characteristics including examination findings, laboratory investigations, and treatments of all male patients diagnosed with systemic sclerosis with or without silica exposure, managed from January 2018 to December 2021.

RESULTS: Eight out of twelve patients were having silica exposure in the form of stone cutting, cement exposure, and working with concrete. The average age was 55 ± 10.72 years with average smoking exposure of around 24.4 ± 12.8 pack years. Skin thickening was reported by all patients with an average modified Rodnan score of 18.33/51 in diffuse and 7/51 in limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis. Raynaud's phenomenon and sclerodactyly were universal findings, while 9 (75%) patients had digital pitted scars. Antinuclear antibodies were present in all patients and specific antibodies substantiated the clinical assessment in almost all patients. Interstitial lung disease was the most common systemic finding present in 11 (91%) patients and tuberculosis was diagnosed in 2 (25%) cases with silica exposure. Gastrointestinal and cardiac system involvement was seen in 5 (41.6%) and 4 (33.3%) patients, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Systemic sclerosis in males against the gender predilection indicates the role of occupational exposure. Silicosis and systemic sclerosis synergistically add to lung damage, and at the same time, these patients are more prone to infections like tuberculosis.

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