Scleroderma is a disease that involves the buildup of scar-like tissue in the skin and elsewhere in the body. It also damages the cells that line the walls of the small arteries.
Scleroderma is a type of autoimmune disorder. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages healthy body tissue.
The cause of scleroderma is unknown. A buildup of a substance called collagen in the skin and other organs leads to the symptoms of the disease.
The disease most often affects people 30 to 50 years old. Women get scleroderma more often than men. Some people with scleroderma have a history of being around silica dust and polyvinyl chloride, but most do not.
Widespread scleroderma can occur with other autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus and polymyositis. These cases are referred to as undifferentiated connective tissue disease or overlap syndrome.
Some types of scleroderma affect only the skin, while others affect the whole body.
Skin symptoms of scleroderma may include:
Bone and muscle symptoms may include:
Breathing problems may result from scarring in the lungs and can include:
Digestive tract problems may include:
The health care provider will do a complete physical exam. The exam may show:
Your blood pressure will be checked. Scleroderma can cause small blood vessels in the kidneys to become narrowed. Problems with your kidneys can lead to high blood pressure and decrease function of the kidney.
Blood and urine tests may include:
Other tests may include:
There is one no specific treatment for scleroderma. Your provider will assess the extent of disease in the lungs, kidneys, heart, and gastrointestinal tract.
You will be prescribed medicines and other treatments to control your symptoms and prevent complications.
Medicines used to treat scleroderma include:
Other treatments for specific symptoms may include:
Treatment often involves physical therapy as well.
Some people can benefit from attending a support group for people with scleroderma.
In some people, symptoms develop quickly for the first few years and continue to get worse. However, in most people, the disease gets worse slowly.
People who have only skin symptoms have a better outlook. Widespread (systemic) scleroderma can lead to.
Call your health care provider if your symptoms become worse or new symptoms develop.
Reviewed By: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.