Systemic Sclerosis

What is systemic sclerosis?

Systemic sclerosis, also known as scleroderma, is a disease that causes tightening and hardening of connective tissue and skin. It can lead to problems with your blood vessels, digestive tract, and internal organs. Treatment can offer you symptom relief and give you a better quality of life.

What are the symptoms of systemic sclerosis?

Common signs and symptoms associated with systemic sclerosis include:

  • Hard or tight skin patches
  • Shiny skin
  • Blue, painful, or numb fingers and toes
  • Joint pain
  • Heartburn
  • Problems swallowing
  • Cramps, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Bloating
  • Other digestive issues
  • Sexual dysfunction

In severe cases of untreated systemic sclerosis, you might experience heart, kidney, or lung problems that can become serious or even life-threatening. 

What are the risk factors for systemic sclerosis?

While anyone can develop scleroderma, certain factors boost your risk of experiencing it. Examples include genetics, exposure to certain medications, viruses, toxins, being a woman, and immune system problems. If you have systemic sclerosis, you're more likely to have lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren's syndrome.

How is systemic sclerosis diagnosed?

Systemic sclerosis is often challenging to diagnose. Your rheumatologist reviews your medical history and symptoms. They complete a physical examination and might recommend blood tests, a skin biopsy, imaging procedures, or organ function tests to find out if systemic sclerosis negatively affects your heart, lungs, or other organs. 

How is systemic sclerosis treated?

There’s no cure for systemic sclerosis, but treatment can offer symptom relief and reduce your risk of complications. After determining the severity of your condition, your rheumatologist might recommend one of the following systemic sclerosis treatments:

Lifestyle changes

Making certain lifestyle changes can help you better manage systemic sclerosis symptoms. Examples include staying active, protecting your skin, eating healthy foods, not smoking, and properly managing heartburn.


Taking medications can diminish unpleasant symptoms associated with systemic sclerosis. Your rheumatologist might recommend medications that reduce swelling or joint pain, dilate blood vessels, suppress your immune system, relieve digestive problems, or prevent infections.

Specialist referrals

If you have organ damage associated with systemic sclerosis, your rheumatologist can refer you to a highly qualified specialist in your area.

Don't live with skin, digestive, joint, or organ problems associated with systemic sclerosis when help is within reach. Schedule an appointment with Rheumatology Solutions by phone or request an appointment online today to manage your symptoms more effectively.

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