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Am Fam Physician. 2008;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

Scleroderma Foundation

Scleroderma Research Foundation

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