Scleroderma is another rare condition that effects the skin but can also affect organs and blood vessels.  ‘Sclero’ comes from the Greek word for hard, and ‘derma’ means skin.  The immune system becomes overactive and starts to attack healthy tissue.

localised scleroderma

There are 2 main types of scleroderma:

  • localised scleroderma – just affects the skin
  • systemic sclerosis – may affect blood circulation and internal organs as well as the skin.  Systemic sclerosis can be either limited (a milder form of the condition) or diffuse (where the condition is more likely to affect internal organs, as well as the skin, and cause complications).

The hardening of the skin is usually one of the first noticeable symptoms, but Scleroderma can effect joints, tendons and internal organs.  This is due to the body producing excess collagen which can cause scaring to develop and prevent the affected parts of the body working properly.

Image showing man holding ankle in pain

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the type of scleroderma who have.

  • localised scleroderma just affects the skin, causing hard patches.
  • systemic sclerosis – as well as the skin symptoms, people can suffer from weight loss, fatigue, joint pain.

Who is affected?

Localised scleroderma often affects children but can occur at any age.  Systemic sclerosis mainly affects women, with typical onset between the ages of 30-50 years.  Children are rarely affected by this form of the disease.

Why does it happen?

Why some people develop scleroderma is unknown, but there could be certain genes involved, and if there is a close family member with disease, this can increase your risk.

Image to shoe someone putting moisturiser on their hand

Treatment

Treatment is mainly to help with the symptoms the condition gives you, as there is currently no cure for scleroderma.

Common treatments include:

  • medication to improve circulation
  • medicines that reduce the activity of the immune system and slow the progression of the condition
  • steroids to relieve joint and muscle problems
  • various medicines to control other symptoms (such as pain, heartburn and high blood pressure)
  • moisturising affected areas of skin to help keep it supple and relieve itchiness