Nursing Care Plan For Systemic Sclerosis

Nursing Care Plan For Systemic Sclerosis


Systemic sclerosis, also known as scleroderma, is a rare and chronic autoimmune connective tissue disorder that affects multiple organs and systems in the body. This complex and often debilitating condition presents unique challenges to healthcare professionals in managing its diverse manifestations. As nurses, we play a crucial role in developing a comprehensive nursing care plan that focuses on addressing the physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs of individuals diagnosed with systemic sclerosis.

The hallmark feature of systemic sclerosis is the excessive accumulation of collagen, leading to skin thickening and fibrosis, and potentially affecting internal organs such as the lungs, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys. These systemic complications can result in significant morbidity and impact the patient’s quality of life. Hence, it becomes imperative to tailor a holistic care plan that encompasses symptom management, patient education, psychosocial support, and close monitoring of disease progression.

In this nursing care plan for systemic sclerosis, we aim to provide evidence-based interventions to optimize the health and well-being of affected individuals. By adopting a patient-centered approach and working collaboratively with the interdisciplinary healthcare team, nurses can effectively manage symptoms, prevent complications, and enhance the overall quality of life for those living with systemic sclerosis.

Nursing Assessment for Systemic Sclerosis:

1. Health History:

  • Obtain a detailed health history from the patient, including the onset and progression of symptoms related to systemic sclerosis. Inquire about any previous autoimmune conditions, family history of connective tissue disorders, and exposure to potential environmental triggers.

2. Skin Assessment:

  • Examine the patient’s skin for signs of scleroderma, including skin thickening, tightness, and changes in texture. Pay particular attention to areas prone to involvement, such as the fingers, hands, face, and trunk. Document any presence of telangiectasias (spider veins) or digital ulcers.

3. Respiratory Assessment:

  • Assess the patient’s respiratory status thoroughly, as pulmonary involvement is common in systemic sclerosis. Monitor for signs of shortness of breath, cough, or decreased lung sounds on auscultation. Observe for any symptoms of interstitial lung disease or pulmonary hypertension.

4. Cardiovascular Assessment:

  • Evaluate the patient’s cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, heart rate, and peripheral pulses. Listen for abnormal heart sounds, signs of cardiac involvement, and assess for Raynaud’s phenomenon (pallor, cyanosis, or redness of fingers/toes upon cold exposure).

5. Gastrointestinal Assessment:

  • Inquire about any gastrointestinal symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, heartburn, bloating, or diarrhea. Monitor for signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and assess for any complications related to gastrointestinal involvement.

6. Musculoskeletal Assessment:

  • Evaluate joint mobility and function, as systemic sclerosis can cause joint pain and stiffness. Assess for muscle weakness or atrophy that may impact the patient’s mobility and ability to perform daily activities.

7. Renal Assessment:

  • Monitor renal function through regular urinalysis and assess for any signs of renal involvement, such as proteinuria or hypertension.

8. Psychological Assessment:

  • Perform a psychological assessment to identify any emotional distress, anxiety, or depression related to the impact of systemic sclerosis on the patient’s life and well-being.

9. Nutrition Assessment:

  • Assess the patient’s nutritional status and dietary habits, ensuring they receive adequate nutrients and hydration to support their overall health.

10. Activity and Mobility Assessment:

  • Evaluate the patient’s physical activity level and mobility to identify any limitations or areas that require intervention or adaptive strategies.

11. Medication History:

  • Review the patient’s current medications, including any immunosuppressive or disease-modifying medications used to manage systemic sclerosis.

12. Functional Assessment:

  • Collaborate with the patient to assess their functional abilities and limitations, considering their individual goals and priorities in managing the condition.

By conducting a comprehensive nursing assessment for systemic sclerosis, healthcare providers can develop an individualized care plan that addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by each patient. Regular assessments and ongoing monitoring are essential to ensure timely intervention, promote symptom management, and improve the overall quality of life for individuals living with systemic sclerosis.

Nursing Diagnoses for Systemic Sclerosis:

  • Impaired Skin Integrity related to skin fibrosis and decreased tissue perfusion.
  • Ineffective Breathing Pattern related to pulmonary fibrosis and reduced lung compliance.
  • Impaired Swallowing related to esophageal involvement and decreased esophageal motility.
  • Activity Intolerance related to muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and limited mobility.
  • Chronic Pain related to joint and muscle involvement, skin tightness, and digital ulcers.
  • Anxiety related to the chronic and unpredictable nature of systemic sclerosis and potential complications.
  • Disturbed Body Image related to visible skin changes and physical limitations.
  • Risk for Impaired Gas Exchange related to pulmonary hypertension or interstitial lung disease.
  • Impaired Nutrition: Less Than Body Requirements related to difficulty swallowing and gastrointestinal involvement.
  • Risk for Impaired Skin Integrity related to impaired peripheral circulation and susceptibility to digital ulcers.

These nursing diagnosis provide a foundation for developing individualized care plans for patients diagnosed with systemic sclerosis. The nursing interventions associated with each diagnosis aim to address the specific needs of the patient, alleviate symptoms, and enhance overall quality of life. By closely monitoring the patient’s condition and collaborating with the interdisciplinary healthcare team, nurses play a vital role in optimizing care and supporting individuals living with systemic sclerosis.

Nursing Interventions for Systemic Sclerosis:

1. Skin Care:

  • Implement a regular skin assessment schedule to monitor for skin changes, ulcers, or infections.
  • Encourage the use of emollients and moisturizers to keep the skin hydrated and prevent cracking or fissures.
  • Provide education on the importance of sun protection to prevent further damage to the skin.
  • Collaborate with wound care specialists for the management of digital ulcers and other skin complications.

2. Respiratory Support:

  • Monitor respiratory status regularly, including oxygen saturation and lung sounds.
  • Encourage deep breathing exercises and incentive spirometry to maintain lung function.
  • Teach the patient techniques to conserve energy during daily activities and manage dyspnea.
  • Collaborate with the healthcare team to address any respiratory complications promptly.

3. Swallowing Assistance:

  • Assess the patient’s ability to swallow safely and provide appropriate interventions as needed, such as a modified diet or thickened liquids.
  • Encourage upright positioning during meals to aid in swallowing.
  • Refer the patient to a speech therapist or occupational therapist for swallowing evaluations and interventions.

4. Activity Management:

  • Collaborate with physical and occupational therapists to develop an exercise program tailored to the patient’s abilities and limitations.
  • Provide assistive devices, as necessary, to enhance mobility and independence.
  • Educate the patient on energy conservation techniques to prevent fatigue during daily activities.

5. Pain Management:

  • Assess the patient’s pain regularly using a pain scale to guide pain management interventions.
  • Administer prescribed pain medications as scheduled or PRN to relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Offer non-pharmacological pain management techniques, such as relaxation exercises or heat therapy.

6. Anxiety Reduction:

  • Provide a supportive and calming environment for the patient.
  • Use therapeutic communication to address the patient’s fears and concerns.
  • Encourage the patient to participate in support groups or counseling to cope with anxiety.

7. Body Image Support:

  • Acknowledge and validate the patient’s feelings about changes in physical appearance.
  • Provide information on coping strategies and resources to improve body image perception.
  • Encourage the patient to engage in activities that promote self-esteem and body positivity.

8. Respiratory Support:

  • Monitor respiratory status regularly, including oxygen saturation and lung sounds.
  • Encourage deep breathing exercises and incentive spirometry to maintain lung function.
  • Teach the patient techniques to conserve energy during daily activities and manage dyspnea.
  • Collaborate with the healthcare team to address any respiratory complications promptly.

9. Nutritional Support:

  • Work with a registered dietitian to develop a balanced and nutrient-rich diet plan that addresses the patient’s specific dietary needs.
  • Provide small, frequent meals and offer foods that are easy to chew and swallow.
  • Monitor weight and nutritional status regularly.

These nursing interventions aim to address the physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs of individuals with systemic sclerosis. By implementing these interventions, nurses can contribute to improved patient outcomes, enhanced quality of life, and better management of systemic sclerosis.


The nursing care plan for systemic sclerosis plays a pivotal role in providing comprehensive and individualized care to patients living with this complex autoimmune disorder. By incorporating evidence-based interventions and a patient-centered approach, nurses can effectively manage the diverse manifestations of systemic sclerosis and improve the overall quality of life for those affected.

Through regular assessments and close monitoring, nurses can promptly identify changes in the patient’s condition, enabling early intervention and prevention of complications. The emphasis on skin care, respiratory support, and swallowing assistance is crucial in managing the unique challenges presented by this condition.

In conclusion, the nursing care plan for systemic sclerosis is a dynamic and adaptive framework that aims to optimize patient outcomes and enhance their overall well-being. Through compassionate care, evidence-based practices, and continuous evaluation, nurses can make a significant impact in supporting individuals living with systemic sclerosis on their journey towards better health and improved quality of life.


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