Skin Affected by Scleroderma Needs Special Care.

What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease. The name is derived from the Greek words sclero and derma, meaning hard skin. With an autoimmune disease, the body does not recognize its own cells and responds as if they are an invader. This triggers a response where the body ends up waging war on itself. Scleroderma can affect the skin and internal organs, most commonly the lungs, heart, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.

Scleroderma can appear in different forms; it can be:

  • Localized – involving only a few places on the skin or
  • Systemic – involving both the skin and internal organs


  • Limited – slowly progressing or
  • Diffuse – rapidly progressing

Collagen is an essential part of our body. It is found in connective tissue and is in essence what holds us together. People with scleroderma have an overproduction of collagen. This forms deposits that can interfere with circulation, function, sensation and flexibility.

How Does Scleroderma Affect My Skin?

People living with scleroderma face many challenges, one of them is keeping their skin intact. Although the skin can be very hard in places, it is really quite fragile. The thickened collagen has displaced many of the healthy cells in the layers of the skin and the underlying fat.

Our skin is the largest organ of our body and performs several vital functions, like offering protection from germs and the elements, insulating us from cold, providing our sense of touch, helping regulate our body temperature, and synthesizing vitamin D. When the skin is compromised by scleroderma, the best way to keep it intact is to find ways to compensate for the functions that have been impaired.

How Do I Manage Fragile Skin Affected by Scleroderma?

Caring for skin affected by scleroderma, especially the hands and feet, is essential. Preventing skin breakdown is very important since your skin can be slow to heal, despite its thick, hard external appearance.

Some skin care tips to help you manage skin affected by scleroderma:

  • Inspect your skin daily, especially your hands and feet. A telescoping mechanic’s mirror will enable you to see your toes and the bottom of your feet easily. Be alert for any signs of discoloration, poor circulation or breakdown.
  • Be gentle. Your skin needs to be managed with a minimum of friction. Harsh soaps can strip your skin and leave you vulnerable to breakdown and infection.
  • Cleanse your skin gently. Avoid harsh soaps and shampoos! Since your skin no longer contains the natural oils and bacterial barrier that protect you, a gentle, pH-balanced, no rinse skin cleanser, like XXXXX is ideal for skin and scalp.
  • Next, apply a moisture barrier cream or ointment, like YYYYY, which is specially formulated to soften and condition extremely dry, cracked and chapped skin. Pay special attention to your extremities like your hands and feet. One tip is to apply liberally before putting on socks or gloves, especially before bed. This will help soften, moisturize and protect vulnerable parts of your skin and leave your skin feeling nourished in the morning.
  • Protect your head, face, arms and legs from the sun with a hat and clothes with ultraviolet protection built in. This can be a big help keeping your skin as healthy as possible as prolonged UV exposure can accelerate the effects of fragile skin.
  • Take care to keep your skin as hydrated and nourished, moisturizing two or more times daily and make regular inspections of your skin going forward.

Learn How To Care For Fragile Skin