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Skip Navigation LinksPennsylvania Department of Health > My Health > A-Z Health Topics > Q-T > Scleroderma

What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma   means hard skin. It is a group of diseases that causes abnormal growth of connective tissue. Connective tissue is the material inside your body that supports many of its parts.   It is the “cellular glue” that gives your tissues their shape and helps keep them strong.   There are over 200 disorders that can affect connective tissue.   Scleroderma is one of these disorders.

In some forms of scleroderma, hard, tight skin is the extent of this abnormal process.  In other forms, however, the problem goes much deeper, affecting blood vessels and internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys.


Other names for scleroderma include:

·         Circumscribed scleroderma

·         Dermatosclerosis

·         Morphea

·         Systemic sclerosis

Scleroderma is also considered a:

·         Rheumatic (roo-MA-tik) disease

o        Causes pain or inflammation in the muscles, joints, or fibrous tissue

o        Some other examples of a rheumatic disease include lupus (Link to Lupus Page), osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, polymyositis and gout

o        May be hard for your doctor to diagnose because other rheumatic diseases have similar symptoms such as:

        • Swelling in one or more joints
        • Difficulty using or moving a joint
        • Warmth and redness in a joint
        • Constant or recurring pain and tenderness in a joint

Types of Scleroderma 

  • Localized scleroderma means it affects only certain parts of your body
    • Makes part of your skin hard and tight
    • Usually does not harm major organs
    • May get better or go away without help
    • Can be severe in some people and damage the skin
  • Systemic scleroderma means it can affect the whole body
    • Affects your skin, blood, and internal organs (including the intestines, lungs, heart, and kidneys)
    • Most people with systemic scleroderma also have Raynauds’ phenomenon.