Systemic Sclerosis - Complications

Systemic sclerosis can cause complications and may affect almost any organ in the body. This happens because it is a connective tissue disease, and connective tissue is found throughout the body. The condition affects different people in different ways. Complications can vary from very mild with no symptoms, to more severe.

The most common complications of systemic sclerosis are:

  • Skin may become tight (contracted), or may develop ulcers or nodules.
  • Problems with teeth if there is difficulty opening the mouth enough to brush them properly.
  • Reduced saliva production can cause dryness of the mouth.
  • Bleeding from the gut.
  • Blockage (obstruction) of the bowels.
  • Incontinence of the bowels.
  • Erection problems (impotence) in men.
  • Heart complications. Several different problems can occur if the muscle of the heart is affected by scar tissue.
  • Lung problems. There are two types of lung problems which may develop, mentioned in the section about symptoms.
  • The thyroid gland can become underactive.
  • Depression.
  • 'Thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis).
  • Blood pressure can become high.
  • Kidneys may become less efficient.
  • Sometimes, kidney problems worsen quickly and the blood pressure becomes very high. This is called scleroderma renal crisis and accelerated hypertension. It needs urgent treatment. Symptoms are headaches, blurred vision, seizures, breathlessness, leg and foot swelling, or reduced urine production. If you have any of these symptoms see a doctor immediately.

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