Scleroderma Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on November 10, 2022
2 min read

Scleroderma symptoms are different for each person. Your symptoms depend on the type of disease you have. The thing you’re most likely to notice first is that the skin on your fingers, arms, legs, hands, feet, or face tightens, gets harder or thicker. Scleroderma symptoms may only affect small areas of skin, but some people develop symptoms over wider areas, even a whole arm or leg.

Scleroderma may affect only your skin. If so, it’s called localized scleroderma. If other organs are affected you have systemic scleroderma.

With localized disease, your scleroderma symptoms may include:

  • Swelling, stiffness, or pain in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face
  • Puffy skin
  • Discolored skin
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, or fingers and toes that react strongly to cold and may look white and be painful.
  • Telangiectasias -- red spots on the fingers, palms, face, lips, or tongue that happen when tiny blood vessels are widened
  • Ulcers or sores on fingertips, knuckles, or elbows
  • Fatigue or feeling tired
  • Tight skin across your face
  • Stiff, painful joints

If you notice just a few -- or all -- of these symptoms together, talk to your doctor.

With systemic scleroderma, other organs including your muscles and connective tissues may be affected. If that happens, you may notice:

  • Shortness of breath, caused by heart or lung damage
  • Problems digesting food -- for example, heartburn, trouble swallowing, or food moving slower than usual through your system, belly cramps, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Calcium deposits on your fingers, elbows, or knees that feel like bumps
  • When you move stiff joints, they grind and grate
  • Serious heart conditions like heart failure or irregular heart rhythm
  • High blood pressure that may affect your kidneys
  • Hair loss
  • Unintended weight loss
  • A nagging, dry cough

Other things can cause some of these symptoms. Your doctor can check them out for you.