Diagnosis of Scleroderma
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Your doctor may be able to diagnose scleroderma by taking a careful history of your symptoms and doing a thorough physical examination. Your doctor will look for classic skin changes associated with scleroderma. These include calcium deposits under the skin and changes in the tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, at the base of your fingernails. The skin changes of scleroderma are often characteristic enough to allow your doctor to accurately diagnose the condition. Other examination and testing may be done to look for organ involvement.
There are no specific tests that can completely confirm or eliminate the possibility of scleroderma.
If there are any questions, your doctor may recommend other tests to confirm the diagnosis or to evaluate how severely your internal organs are involved.
Such tests may include:
A number of blood tests can point towards the presence of scleroderma. These include:
These tests can visualize the internal organs to see how the disease has affected them. Specific areas of the body to be examined with imaging tests may be chosen based on your symptoms. Imaging tests include:
A skin biopsy involves removing a small sample of skin and examining it in a lab for specific characteristics that suggest scleroderma.
Organ Specific Tests
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order tests of other organs to see if they are involved in the disease process. These tests may include:
Localized scleroderma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 4, 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Scleroderma. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scleroderma/default.asp. Updated August 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Systemic sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116347/Systemic-sclerosis. Updated June 9, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
What is scleroderma? Scleroderma Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed November 29, 2016.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015
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