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Health Information Center


  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:



(Systemic Sclerosis)


Scleroderma is a disorder that can affect many systems in the body, including the skin and internal organs.


The exact cause of scleroderma is not known. It may be due to genetics, the environment, or a problem with how the immune system works.

Risk Factors

Scleroderma is more common in females. It often starts between 20 and 50 years of age.

The risk of this problem is raised in people who have family members with lupus.


Symptoms vary from person to person. Some problems may be:

  • Numbness, discomfort, or a change in skin color in the fingers and toes
  • Tight, thickened, or shiny skin
  • Muscle pain
  • Problems swallowing or choking
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea or problems passing stool
  • Shortness of breath
  • Problems having or keeping an erection
Raynaud Phenomenon Symptom.

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The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests may be done to look for antibodies linked to scleroderma.

A sample of skin may be tested. This can be done with a biopsy.

Pictures of the body may be taken. This can be done with:


There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms a person is having. Choices are:

  • Medicines to:
    • Ease pain and swelling
    • Treat skin changes
    • Widen blood vessels
    • Suppress the immune system
    • Reduce stomach acid
  • Physical therapy to help with strength and flexibility
  • Occupational therapy to learn how to do daily activities
  • Phototherapy to thin out the skin


There are no known guidelines to prevent scleroderma.





  • Denton, C.P. Advances in pathogenesis and treatment of systemic sclerosis. Clinical Medicine Journal (London), 2015; 15 Suppl 6: s58-63.
  • Localized scleroderma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/localized-scleroderma.
  • Scleroderma. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/scleroderma.
  • Systemic sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/systemic-sclerosis.
  • What is scleroderma? Scleroderma Foundation website. Available at: http://www.scleroderma.org/site/PageNavigator/patients_whatis.html#.Wy58BVVKhxA.


  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.