11 Fast Facts About Systemic Sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis or scleroderma is a rare autoimmune disease where the body generates too much collagen. This overproduction of collagen causes thickening and hardening of the skin and other organs.

We’ve put together a list of fast facts about systemic sclerosis with help from the Scleroderma Foundation.

MORE: Seven common misconceptions about scleroderma.

  • Scleroderma comes from the Greek words for hard “sclero” and skin “dermo.”
  • Almost all systemic sclerosis patients will experience hardening of the skin to some extent, many will also have internal organ involvement.
  • There are two main types of systemic sclerosis: diffuse cutaneous scleroderma and limited cutaneous scleroderma.
  • Diffuse scleroderma patients can experience skin hardening on any part of their body and are more likely to suffer from organ involvement, particularly the kidneys, lungs, and heart.
  • Limited scleroderma patients will generally have less skin hardening and are less likely to suffer from organ involvement.
  • Ninety percent of scleroderma patients will also suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes the blood vessels in the hands and feet to contract in cold conditions causing pain and discoloration.
  • Many scleroderma patients will suffer from esophagus problems including heartburn, GERD, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Lung involvement in systemic sclerosis patients can lead to chronic lung conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension.
  • Approximately 15 to 20 percent of patients will develop kidney failure, however if treated early kidney problems can be addressed.
  • Around 10 percent of patients will have heart problems including fluid retention around the heart and disturbances to heart rhythm.
  • Muscle and joint pain are both linked to the disease and many patients find they have a secondary autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or suffer from fibromyalgia.

MORE: How scleroderma and pulmonary hypertension are connected.

Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


  1. Judi Stevenson says:

    I am concerned that I could have Scleroderma. I have been told by a doctor, some years ago, that I have Renaud’s. My joints are knobbly on my finger joints. I have GERD, and am now suffering from a heitus hernia.
    Recently I have been diagnosed with EDAC and also a heart problem, which hasn’t been identified as yet. Could this possibly be related to Scleoderma in any way? My Thoracic specialist at the hospital told me that nothing can be done about EDAC, and I am feeling ‘all at sea’.
    I would be happy if you could give me some idea is there is a likelihood that it could be correct in thinking that it could be Scleroderma. My daughter has been diagnosed with Sjogrens.
    Thank you,
    Judi Stevenson

    • Dianne Roncal, DMD says:

      Hi Judi, we are very sorry to hear that. However, it would be best to go to your specialist so you can get the proper diagnosis or advice regarding this matter. We are sending nothing but positive vibes your way.

  2. Catherine says:

    Is the website also covering linear sclerosis? Similar but difference, I think, is it is affecting lining tissues but not organs? My partner was told he had it some years ago (biopsies were taken) but no follow up as no treatment available. Things may, of course have changed, but with multiple health issues it becomes another pain in the *** to get assistance with…. Should we sign up for the newsletter? Thanks! (If this is made visible can you show just my first name? Thanks again.)

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