Chronic disease that hardens the skin and fixes it to underlying structures. Swelling and collagen buildup lead to loss of elasticity. The cause is unknown. It usually begins at age 25–55, more often in women, with severe inflammation of underlying tissue and stiffness, pain, and skin tautness and thickening. Systemic problems that may arise years later include fever, trouble in breathing, fibrous tissue in the lungs, inflammation of heart muscle or membranes, gastrointestinal disorders, and kidney malfunction. Calcium deposits build up under the skin. The disease may finally stabilize or gradually regress. Steroids may help, and physical medicine and rehabilitation with heat, massage, and passive exercise (movement of the limbs by the therapist) help prevent limb fixation and deformity.
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