Conditions InDepth: Scleroderma
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Scleroderma is a disease of the body’s connective tissue. Connective tissue is found throughout the body, providing support and form for organs and structures. Scleroderma is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, a condition in which the immune system mistakes the body’s own tissue for a foreign invader, attacking and damaging it. Researchers believe that the immune system’s interaction with the connective tissue causes an overproduction of collagen, a tough, hard protein that makes up tendons, bones, ligaments, and scar tissue. When this collagen is deposited in various places throughout the body, it causes hardening and stiffening.
The most common areas of the body affected by scleroderma are the skin, blood vessels, joints, and internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and digestive system.
Scleroderma is classified as:
This primarily affects the skin. Localized scleroderma is further divided into:
Usually involves Raynaud’s phenomenon, skin thickening, and involvement of lungs, gastrointestinal system, or kidneys
This is divided into:
Overlap Syndrome TOP
Overlap syndrome occurs when a person has symptoms of two or more autoimmune diseases. The most common diseases include:
Undifferentiated Scleroderma TOP
Involves Raynaud phenomenon and some features of systemic sclerosis.
What are the risk factors for scleroderma?
What are the symptoms of scleroderma?
How is scleroderma diagnosed?
What are the treatments for scleroderma?
Are there screening tests for scleroderma?
How can I reduce my risk of scleroderma?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with scleroderma?
Where can I get more information about scleroderma?
Iaccarino L, Gatto M, Bettio S, et al. Overlap connective tissue disease syndromes. Autoimmun Rev. 2013;12(3):363-373.
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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed November 29, 2016.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.