Scleroderma Complications and Treatments

Research and continuing advances in treatment for scleroderma complications give people with scleroderma hope for a healthier future. Being better informed can help you be a more effective advocate in the management of your disease and remain as healthy as possible.

Scleroderma Skin Complications and Treatments

Along with the signature skin fibrosis (hardening) that characterizes scleroderma, there are other scleroderma complications related to the skin that may occur.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common medical condition and women are much more likely to develop Raynaud’s phenomenon than men.

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Skin Ulcers

For people with scleroderma, complications in the form of skin ulcers most often appear at the tips of fingers (digital ulcers), may extend under the nails, or to the joints at pressure points.

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Calcinosis is a complication of scleroderma where the abnormal collection of calcium salts which form under the skin and in muscles or tendons.

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Telangiectasias are abnormal blood vessels that usually appear as red dots on the skin or may look like varicose veins, with a spider-web form.

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Lung Complications and Treatments

One of the main characteristics of scleroderma is the overproduction of collagen. Since certain parts of the lungs are made up of collagen, which can act like scar tissue in the lungs, this can make people with scleroderma vulnerable to serious breathing and lung complications.

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)

Scleroderma can cause scar tissue in the lungs and thickening in the walls of blood vessels that carry blood to and from the heart to the lungs.

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Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) is another complication of systemic sclerosis which may affect breathing.

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Gastrointestinal Complications and Treatments

Most people living with scleroderma have mild to severe gastrointestinal problems. This can appear in many forms and involve different levels of risk, from simple indigestion to esophageal blockage.

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Joint Complications

Scleroderma complications can affect tendons, joints, nerves, and other structures that affect mobility. The increased production of collagen associated with scleroderma can cause vascular dysfunction. This can contribute to stiffness, warmth, tenderness, and pain in the joints and muscles.

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Heart Complications

Symptoms of heart complications in scleroderma are varied. They depend on the location within the heart and the presence of any underlying conditions. The heart muscle can become thickened and fibrous scar tissue may accumulate. This can cause contractions of the heart to decrease and may ultimately, in rare cases, lead to heart failure.

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Kidney Complications

Kidney complications occur in approximately 15% of scleroderma patients, most often occurring in patients with diffuse skin involvement when skin thickness reaches the upper arms and trunk.

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Watch the 2024 SRF Patient Forum

“Collaborating For a Cure,” an online patient forum for people living with scleroderma and those who care about them, is now available to watch on YouTube.

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More Resources

I’ve Been Diagnosed, What Do I Do?

There is a lot to understand about this complicated disease. Here is a place to get started.

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Treatment Centers

Patients who are diagnosed with scleroderma are encouraged to receive care at a specialized Treatment Center.

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Webinar Series

Scleroderma Research Foundation collaborates and co-hosts free online webinars providing scleroderma health, wellbeing, and COVID-19 information.

See Available Webinars