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

and

  • 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.