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Pain Management Health Center

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Scleroderma: Main Types & Top Questions Answered

Scleroderma is a chronic skin disease, meaning it doesn’t go away. Your doctor can treat your symptoms and help you feel better, though.

The problem is with your immune system, which causes your body to make too much of the protein collagen, an important part of your skin.

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As a result, your skin gets thick and tight, and scars can form on your lungs and kidneys. Your blood vessels can thicken and not work the way they should. This leads to tissue damage and high blood pressure.

There are two types:

Localized scleroderma mainly affects the skin.

There are two kinds of localized scleroderma:

  • Morphea: This involves hard, oval-shaped patches on the skin. They start out red or purple and then turn whitish in the center. Sometimes, but not often, this type can affect blood vessels or internal organs. This is called generalized morphea.
  • Linear: This kind causes lines or streaks of thickened skin to form on the arms, legs, or face.

Systemic scleroderma, also called generalized scleroderma, can involve many body parts or systems. There are two kinds of this as well:

  • Limited scleroderma: It comes on slowly and affects the skin of the face, hands, and feet. It can also damage the lungs, intestines, or esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. This is sometimes referred to as CREST syndrome.

For many people with limited scleroderma, the outlook is good, but the disease tends to get worse over time. Sometimes, it can affect the heart and raise blood pressure in the lungs -- though this can be treated.

  • Diffuse scleroderma: This comes on quickly. Skin on the middle part of the body, thighs, upper arms, hands, and feet can become thick. This form also affects internal organs, like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract.

What Causes Scleroderma?

Doctors don’t know what triggers scleroderma. It’s one of a group of conditions known as autoimmune diseases. These happen when your immune system, which usually protects you from germs, turns on your body and causes inflammation of skin and other organs.

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