Scleroderma is an uncommon disease in which parts of the skin, joints, and blood vessels break down and are replaced by fibrous tissue. Organ damage may also occur, which can lead to lung, kidney, or heart failure and other life-threatening conditions.
Symptoms of scleroderma include thickening of the skin, joint pain and stiffness, problems swallowing, and cold fingertips that may turn white or blue (Raynaud's phenomenon). More serious symptoms may occur as the disease progresses and affects major organs.
Scleroderma is most common in middle-aged women. Its cause is unknown. But it may occur from an autoimmune disease, which is when the body's defense system (immune system) attacks its own tissues. There is no cure. But treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.
Last Revised: May 10, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
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