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.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology