Health A-Z


Clinical Definition

Scleroderma refers to a group of disorders of unknown etiology that involve skin sclerosis. Scleroderma may be a limited, localized disease of the skin or a more widespread, systemic condition with organ involvement. In some instances, blood vessels, muscles, joints and organs including the lungs, heart and kidneys are affected.

In Our Own Words

Scleroderma is an umbrella term for a group of connective tissue disorders in which the skin becomes thick and hard. The causes are not fully known, but may involve autoimmunity and other processes that result in excessive production of collagen. Collagen is a non-living structural substance made by our cells, and in scleroderma it builds up in the skin, which causes it to become hard and thick. Scleroderma can also impact other areas of the body, such as the joints, muscles and blood vessels. Internal organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract can also become involved. When the disease spreads beyond the skin it is considered systemic scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Skin hardening, thickening or swelling
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (Finger color changes, when exposed to cold)
  • Hair loss
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