Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Scleroderma: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2008 Oct 15;78(8):969.

  See related article on scleroderma.

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma (sklair-uh-DUR-muh) is a disease that makes your skin harden. It happens when collagen builds up in your body. Collagen is a protein that normally helps connect the tissue in your body. Extra collagen can damage your skin and organs. It is unclear what causes this.

Who gets it?

Scleroderma is rare. Anybody can get it, but it usually happens in young or middle-age women. It may run in families.

How can my doctor tell if I have it?

Your doctor may check for changes in your skin, such as skin thickening or hair loss. If your scleroderma is bad, you may develop sores on your wrists, fingers, or other joints. The skin on your hands may turn white, then blue, then red.

You may have aching muscles and joints, trouble swallowing, upset stomach, or stomach pain. Sometimes, it may be hard to breathe or catch your breath. You may also have kidney problems. Your doctor may give you a blood test.

How is scleroderma treated?

There is no cure for scleroderma. Your symptoms may not get better and, sometimes, they get worse over time. But, there are treatments to help you feel better and control your symptoms.

The type of treatment you need depends on how bad your symptoms are and what parts of your body are affected. Your doctor can help you decide what treatment is best for you.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians

Web site:

Scleroderma Foundation

Web site:

Scleroderma Research Foundation

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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