Scleroderma is a chronic disease that affects connective tissue, the tissue that supports and holds organs together and is also found in the joints.

The hallmark of scleroderma is thick and hardened skin caused by excessive production of collagen, the main component of scar tissue. This scar tissue can accumulate in and damage organs, including the heart and blood vessels, the lungs, stomach, and kidneys.

What causes scleroderma?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, meaning it is caused by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. The excessive inflammation damages the skin and affected organs.

Scleroderma is a complex condition, and the underlying disease process is not well-understood. It is thought that the disease results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. But it is not contagious, infectious, cancerous, or malignant.

Who gets scleroderma?

Women are three to four times more likely to develop scleroderma than men. Disease onset typically occurs between ages 25 to 55, but can also be found in children.

Types of scleroderma

This disease is broadly classified as either localized scleroderma or systemic scleroderma. The main difference between the two is the degree of internal organ involvement.

People with the localized form of the disease tend to have symptoms affecting skin only, although it can also spread to the muscles, joints, and bones.  Those with the systemic form are more likely to have internal organ involvement and damage. Localized scleroderma is more common in children, whereas systemic scleroderma is more common in adults.

Both localized and systemic scleroderma can be further divided into various subtypes

Disease symptoms

Symptoms of scleroderma vary among patients, and can range from very mild to being life-threatening depending on which parts of the body are affected and the extent of organ involvement. A mild case can become serious if not treated properly.

Possible co-existing conditions 

Patients with scleroderma can be at greater risk of developing other conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, erythromelalgia, fibromyalgia, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Treating and managing scleroderma

Although scleroderma has no cure, several treatments can help make the condition more manageable. Medications include corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, and immunosuppressive therapies to manage the inflammation, and anti-fibrotic agents to block the formation of excess scar tissue.

Patients may also need treatments that specifically address symptoms resulting from organ damage. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy can also help improve the quality of life of patients with the condition.

Researchers are working on experimental treatments that may help patients to better manage this disease.

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 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.