Conditions InDepth: Scleroderma

Scleroderma is a disease of the body's connective tissue. This tissue gives support and form to organs and structures in the body. The most body parts it affects are the skin and organs, such as the digestive system, heart, lungs, and kidneys. It happens when the immune system triggers cells to make too much collagen. It is then deposited in the skin and organs and causes hardening and thickening.

The cause is not known. Genes and the environment may play a role.

Layers of the Skin

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There are two main types:

  • Localized scleroderma affects the skin and the structures under it, such as tissue, muscle, and bone.
  • Systemic scleroderma , also called systemic sclerosis, is a more serious form that affects many systems in the body, such as the blood vessels, heart, lungs, and kidneys


Kowal-Bielecka O, Fransen J, et al. Update of EULAR recommendations for the treatment of systemic sclerosis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2017 Aug;76(8):1327-1339.
Localized scleroderma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 12, 2020.
Scleroderma. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Accessed August 12, 2020.
Systemic sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 12, 2020.
What is scleroderma? Scleroderma Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed August 12, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 3/5/2021