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Scleroderma (Systemic Sclerosis)
(RH010)

Introduction


Scleroderma is a disease of the skin, joints and sometimes, internal organs. Its cause is not known. Scleroderma means hardening (fibrosis) of the skin, and due to malfunction of the vascular and immune systems, results in the overproduction of collagen (connective tissue in the body). Scleroderma can be localized to the skin or may become systemic with excess collagen building up in various organs such as the esophagus, kidneys, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, heart skin, and peripheral nervous system.

Fortunately, scleroderma is relatively rare affecting approximately 300,000 persons in the United States. The disorder most commonly occurs in women between the ages of 20 and 40, however men and children can be affected as well. The disease is not contagious and is not thought to be inherited.


Early diagnosis is important in allowing initiation of treatments designed to prevent long-term complications. Medications are commonly used. Surgery may be required for some conditions. Research is investigating bone marrow transplants for persons with scleroderma.

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