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Scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder affecting the connective tissue that supports the skin and internal organs. In this disease, the body essentially attacks itself in a process involving inflammation and the buildup of collagen. Symptoms of this chronic disorder can range from mild to life-threatening.

Scleroderma comes in two main types: localized and systemic. Localized scleroderma primarily causes discoloring and thickening of the skin but does not affect the internal organs. Systemic scleroderma can affect not only the skin, but also the blood vessels and major organs, including the heart, lungs and kidneys. Systemic scleroderma can cause problems such as:

  • Joint stiffness and pain
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, in which the fingers or toes change color, often in response to cold
  • Skin tightening and thickening
  • Acid reflux
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

No single test can diagnose scleroderma. Physicians rely on medical history, physical examination and laboratory studies, including blood tests and skin biopsy, to determine whether a person has the condition. Scleroderma can occur in people of any age, but typically emerges between ages 30 and 50. Approximately 75 percent of people with the disease are women. Scientists do not know what causes scleroderma, but they believe some people may have a genetic predisposition that can be triggered by as-yet unknown environmental factors.

Scleroderma can be challenging to diagnose and manage because of the wide range of symptoms it can produce and the numerous body systems it can affect. Although there is no cure for scleroderma, we provide treatment based on your specific disease manifestations with the goal of minimizing symptoms, preventing long-term damage to the body and helping you maintain your functioning and quality of life. Many of the therapies we use for scleroderma target specific symptoms, such as acid reflux and high blood pressure.

Our connection with the Indiana University School of Medicine means we have access to the most innovative tools for diagnosing and treating scleroderma. Through this partnership, we conduct research to find new and better ways to treat scleroderma and we take an active role in teaching future generations of physicians. Additionally, the comprehensive referral network of IU Health enables us to connect patients with heart, lung, kidney and other specialists when necessary.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Scleroderma Treatment Information

Common treatment options for scleroderma include:


Scleroderma Locations & Physicians

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Scleroderma Support Services

National and international organizations that provide resources for people with scleroderma and their families include: