SCLERODERMA (Systemic Sclerosis)
Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a disease affecting the skin and other organs that is one of the
autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The primary finding in scleroderma is thickening and tightening of
the skin. Effective treatments are available for some forms of the disease, although, scleroderma is
not yet curable.
• Scleroderma is a relatively uncommon problem, affecting only 200 to 300 people per million in
the U.S. Some 12 to 20 new cases per million are diagnosed annually.
• While scleroderma affects both adults and children, it is most common among adult women.
• Promising research is shedding light on the relationship between the immune system and
scleroderma, although the underlying cause is not yet known.
• Medicines traditionally used to treat other autoimmune diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis
and lupus – often have little effect on scleroderma.
What is scleroderma?
Scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is a chronic disease that causes skin thickening and
tightening, a buildup of scar tissue, and damage to internal body organs. There are several types of
scleroderma and related diseases with complications ranging from minor to life-threatening.
Therefore, the terminology can be confusing.
The two broad categories are “localized scleroderma” which indicates distinct skin lesions, and
"systemic sclerosis" (scleroderma) which indicates similar skin symptoms and the potential for internal
Other diseases affecting the skin that may be confused with scleroderma include scleredema,
scleromyxedema, eosinophilic fasciitis, and nephrogenic systemic fibrosis.
Localized scleroderma refers to disorders of the skin and sometimes the deeper tissues. The most
visible effects are skin lesions or morphea. In some cases, localized scleroderma is just a cosmetic
problem. However, for those with widespread skin lesions over their body (generalized morphea or
linear scleroderma) the