Types of Scleroderma
There are different types of scleroderma. Find out more
'Scleroderma' comes from the Greek, 'sclero,' meaning hard, and 'derma', meaning skin. It is an autoimmune condition, meaning that the immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissue within the body. Hardening of the skin can be one of the first noticeable symptoms, as the body produces too much collagen. This excess of collagen can affect the skin, joints, tendons and internal organs. It causes scarring and stops the affected parts of the body from functioning normally.
The symptoms of scleroderma will vary for everyone, and the severity depends greatly on which parts of the body are affected.
Typical symptoms include hardening of the skin, swelling of the hands and feet, joint pain and stiffness and damage to the blood vessels, which leads to a physical over-reaction to the cold or emotional stress known as Raynauds' syndrome.
There are two main types of scleroderma, 'localised' and 'systemic':
There are different types of Raynaud's and Scleroderma. The diagram below show these types and the categories they sit within.
In systemic sclerosis, the internal organs are affected as well as the skin, including the heart, oesophagus, blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, blood pressure and digestive system. There are two kinds of systemic sclerosis.
People with limited systemic sclerosis have often lived with Raynaud's syndrome for a long time. The condition progresses gradually, and usually only affects the face, the hands, the arms below the elbows, the feet and the legs below the knees - although the lungs and digestive system may be affected over time. Symptoms can include thickening of the skin, heartburn and problems with swallowing.
Diffuse systemic sclerosis is more likely to affect the whole body, and in some cases there can be potentially serious complications involving the heart, lungs and kidneys. Common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain and stiffness.
Download the systemic sclerosis factsheet.