Quality of Life & Systemic Sclerosis

Systemic Sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body. Healthy tissue is destroyed because the immune system mistakenly thinks it’s a foreign substance or infection.

The condition is characterised by changes in the texture and appearance of the skin due to increased collagen production. Collagen is a component of connective tissue.

But the disorder isn’t confined to skin changes. It can also affect:

  • blood vessels
  • muscles
  • heart
  • digestive system
  • lungs
  • kidneys

Features of systemic sclerosis can appear in other autoimmune disorders. When this occurs, it’s called a mixed connective disorder.

The disease is typically seen in people between the ages of 30 to 50, but it can be diagnosed at any age. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with this condition. The symptoms and severity vary from one person to another based on the systems and organs involved.

In addition to pain, fatigue has also been identified as a key stressor and the most prevalent and debilitating symptom of Systemic Sclerosis.

Pharmacological therapeutic strategies have not been proved sufficiently effective in the management of pain and fatigue related to this condition. As yet, the effects of a feasible, long-term, tailored exercise programme on pain and fatigue in people with Systemic Sclerosis have not been explored.

More about the study

This project aims to assess the effect of a previously-established, supervised 12-week combined (aerobic and resistance training) exercise programme on pain and fatigue.

The 26-month study will recruit 180 people with Systemic Sclerosis across all study sites.

This project is expected to run between September 2021 and November 2023. It will take place across 5 different sites in Europe: Sheffield in the UK, Copenhagen in Denmark, Vienna in Austria, Leiden in the Netherlands and Lulea in Sweden.

It is funded by the Foundation for Research in Rheumatology (FOREUM), an independent fundraising institution for research funding based in Switzerland, which promotes health in individuals with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases through effective research.

In the UK it will ran as a collaboration between LENI Research Group at Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

What we aim to achieve with this study

Carrying out this study will allow us to:

  • explore the effects of the proposed intervention on pain and fatigue of people with Systemic Sclerosis
  • investigate the effects of the proposed intervention on quality of life, depression, cardiorespiratory fitness and strength of people with the condition
  • study how exercise affects the structure of fingers of people belonging in this clinical group
What the study involves

The study will take place in Sheffield, as a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Participants will be randomly allocated into two groups:

  • Group A will perform the exercise programme parallel to standard care
  • Group B will receive the standard care alone

All participants will be followed for 24 weeks and will be assessed for different physiological, functional and quality of life outcomes on 3 occasions (baseline, intervention completion and 6 months after baseline).

How you can take part
To find out more about the study or take part in it, please contact Dr Alexandros Mitropoulos on 0114 225 3923 or by email.

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