What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks your skin and other connective tissues. These tissues are tendons and cartilage that protect and support your body. Scleroderma can change how your skin looks, creating patches of hard or discolored skin or scars. There are 2 main types of scleroderma based on which parts of the body it affects:

1) Localized scleroderma only affects the skin.
2) Systemic scleroderma affects the skin and other parts of the body.
This is also called systemic sclerosis.

Woman examines the skin on her hands

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Signs and Symptoms of Scleroderma

Symptoms of localized scleroderma include:

  • Patches of thick, hard, shiny skin. Patches may be yellow, red, or
    appear in stripes or ovals
  • Patches of darker or lighter skin
  • Stiff joints

Symptoms of systemic scleroderma include:

  • Small lumps of calcium under the skin, which may ooze
  • Raynauds phenomenon (where fingers turn blue-purple, white,
    or red, usually due to cold or stress)
  • Stomach problems, such as acid reflux, bloating, constipation,
    or diarrhea
  • Thick, tight skin on hands and fingers
  • Small red spots on hands or face
  • Sores on fingers or toes
  • Hair loss
    You may be at risk for organ damage if you have systemic scleroderma. This damage can lead to problems with your lungs, heart, kidney, and reproductive organs.

Causes of Scleroderma

You are more likely to develop scleroderma if a family member has scleroderma or other autoimmune diseases that affect connective tissue (such as lupus). However, you may have no family history of scleroderma and still develop the disease.

Scientists are still learning what other factors may increase the risk of scleroderma. They think certain chemicals, infections, or hormones may increase the risk.

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