Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder that is classed as a connective tissue disease. It causes the connective tissue to multiply throughout the body, in particular in the internal organs and the skin. The symptoms are diverse, but often include visible changes to the mouth or fingers. The disorder is treated with anti-inflammatory medication.
Localised form (circumscribed scleroderma)
- Mainly affects the skin
- Red patches
- Slowly grow larger
- Over time, yellowish white scabs with a lilac border
- After months / years, brown patches are left
- Slow stiffening of the joints
Diffuse form (systemic scleroderma)
- Affects the skin and internal organs
- Raynaud’s syndrome: fingers suddenly turn white, then blue and finally red, with pain
- General fatigue, reduced concentration, etc.
- Reduced mouth opening
- Elongated fingers fixed in a claw-like position
- Swallowing disorders, acid reflux
- Constipation, stomach cramps
- Lung fibrosis (lung tissue loses elasticity; can lead to shortness of breath)
- Renal insufficiency
- Reduced production of saliva, dry eyes (Sjögren's syndrome)
- Inflammation of the heart sac (pericarditis)
Causes and treatment
- Autoimmune disorder (connective tissue disease)
- Cause is unclear, discussion focuses on
- Genetic factors, family predisposition
The body overproduces connective tissue. This leads to the “hardening” of the normal tissue at the affected sites, causing different restrictions.
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- Blood test (search for autoimmune antibodies, inflammatory markers, etc.)
- Capillaroscopy (examination of a finger under a special microscope)
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- Medicines to suppress inflammation
- Eye drops for dry eyes
- Gastric protection for acid reflux
What can I do myself?
- Avoid the cold, dress correctly (including gloves, etc.)
- Regular exercise
When to see a doctor?
- New patches on the skin that don’t go away and/or get bigger
- Increasingly dry eyes and mouth, for no discernible reason
- Fingers suddenly turn white, then blue and then red, with pain
- Increasing claw-like stiffening of fingers, shrinking mouth
Scleroderma, autoimmune disorder