11 Fast Facts About Systemic Sclerosis

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by Wendy Henderson |

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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.