Systemic Sclerosis - Tests and Diagnosis

Systemic sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose as it can develop gradually and can take different forms.

There is no single test or feature which gives a yes/no answer. Instead, the diagnosis is made after looking at the whole person, taking into account their symptoms, physical examination and blood tests. This may involve seeing a specialist - usually a rheumatologist, who is a doctor specialising in joint and connective tissue diseases.

Tests which can be helpful are:

  • Examination of the fingernails, using a skin microscope: this looks at the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the nail area, which can show changes linked to systemic sclerosis.
  • Blood tests.
  • Blood can be tested for particular autoantibodies which are linked to systemic sclerosis.
  • An X-ray of the hand may show chalk deposits (calcinosis).

See our comprehensive guide to Annual Tests for Scleroderma and related booklet for more information.