Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a fibrosing (scarring) autoimmune disorder that can affect the skin, the lungs, the heart and the kidneys amongst other organs. The disease is due at least in part to the overproduction of cells called fibroblasts which can create scar like tissue (fibrosis) in different organs. This occurs most frequently in the lungs, the heart and the kidney- organs that are critical to bodily function. While there is no cure, there are treatments that may slow down the disease, and rheumatologists work with skin, lung, heart and kidney specialists to treat the specific organs that may be involved to help improve symptoms, limit organ damage and improve quality of life.
Though the cause is unknown, scleroderma is the result of an autoimmune response. This means the symptoms are caused by the body attacking its own healthy tissues. While anyone can develop scleroderma, risk factors may include:
Some of the most common symptoms of Scleroderma include:
A rheumatologist can usually make the diagnosis based on an examination and evaluation of blood tests that support the diagnosis. A dermatologist can also make the diagnosis based on specific features on examination of the skin. Patients suspected of having scleroderma should also undergo the following tests to assess risk and decide if additional treatment is needed:
While there are is no cure for scleroderma, there are treatment approaches available. Treatment for scleroderma may include:
Newer approaches and clinical trials are emerging to better treat patients with scleroderma.
To learn more about our services or to make an appointment with a Brigham and Women’s Hospital rheumatologist, contact one of our trained coordinators at 1-800-294-9999 to get connected with the best doctor for your needs.
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