Causes of Scleroderma

The cause of scleroderma is unknown. However, it is believed to be an autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells and tissues. Scientists know that people with scleroderma overproduce collagen, a key component of connective tissue. Excess collagen causes the skin to thicken and may cause internal organs to function abnormally.

Symptoms Of Scleroderma

Symptoms of scleroderma can vary and depend in part on which form you may have. They include the following:

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, a condition in which blood flow to the skin decreases in response to cold temperatures or emotional stress, causing fingers or toes to turn blue
  • digestive problems, including decreased motion (dysmotility) in the esophagus, which may give the sensation of food sticking in the throat; acid reflux and constipation
  • sclerodactyly, or thickening of the skin on the fingers, which makes them difficult to bend or straighten
  • telangiectasia, small dilated blood vessels that show through the skin
  • calcinosis, small white calcium lumps under the skin, which occasionally may break through the skin and leak a chalky white liquid
  • skin changes, such as hardening and thickening, and a shiny appearance or loss of hair over the affected area
  • stiff, swollen, warm or tender joints
  • muscle weakness, often in the upper arms or thighs
  • dryness of the mouth, eyes, skin or vagina caused by decreased secretions from moisture-producing glands
  • heart problems, including irregular heart rhythms, heart failure, inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericarditis) or fluid around the heart
  • lung problems, including scarring of the lung tissue or high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary arterial hypertension)
  • kidney problems, which can cause severe high blood pressure and, potentially, kidney failure

While there is no cure, treatments for scleroderma include medications and lifestyle modifications.