MSD Manual

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Systemic Sclerosis

(Scleroderma)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is systemic sclerosis?

Systemic sclerosis causes scarring in your skin, joints, organs, and blood vessels.

  • Systemic sclerosis is rare

  • It is more common in women than in men and usually happens in people ages 20 to 50

  • Systemic sclerosis can cause tightening and hardening of the skin and damage to other organs

  • You may have problems in only one part of your body or have problems with multiple organs throughout your body

  • Systemic sclerosis gets worse over time, but treatment can lessen your symptoms

What causes systemic sclerosis?

Systemic sclerosis happens when your tissue makes too much collagen and other proteins. Collagen is a protein that helps give structure to your skin, nails, hair, tendons, and other tissue. Too much collagen can cause hardening and scarring.

Doctors don’t know what causes systemic sclerosis to happen.

What are the symptoms of systemic sclerosis?

Symptoms can include:

Systemic sclerosis can cause too much scarring to build up in other organs of the body, such as the joints, lungs, digestive system, heart, and kidneys, and stop them from working right. When it damages blood vessels, blood pressure can go up.

How can doctors tell if I have systemic sclerosis?

How do doctors treat systemic sclerosis?

Medicine can’t stop systemic sclerosis from getting worse over time, but it can help with some symptoms. Treatments include:

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