What does scleroderma do to the skin?


Quick Answer

Scleroderma causes a tightening or hardening of areas of skin that are often shaped like lines or ovals, as stated by Mayo Clinic. These patches may appear shiny and cause restricted movement. It can also cause color changes to the skin of an affected person's fingers or toes, when exposed to cold temperatures or stressful situations.

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Full Answer

Patients with morphea, a type of localized scleroderma, experience a varying number of waxy skin patches that may enlarge, shrink or disappear spontaneously, according to the Scleroderma Foundation. Patches vary in size and location, and the affected skin may thicken. Symptoms are normally mild and rarely affect internal organs, and the condition is most common in ages 20 to 50. Linear scleroderma is another localized condition that causes lines of hardened, waxy skin that may mimic creases in the skin. The condition often affects tissue underneath the skin, and it most commonly occurs in children.

In systemic scleroderma, connective tissue elsewhere in the body, such as the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, kidney and esophagus, are also affected, as stated by the Scleroderma Foundation. Approximately half of all patients with systemic scleroderma experience diffuse scleroderma, a variation that develops rapidly and affects a greater skin area. The other roughly 50 percent of patients experience limited scleroderma that develops over years and normally only affects the face, hands and fingers. Patients with systemic scleroderma may also develop pulmonary hypertension, which can lead to shortness of breath.

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