Scleroderma Overview



Scleroderma is a chronic, autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. The symptoms may either be visible, as when the skin is affected, or invisible, as when only internal organs are involved. Involvement may range from mild symptoms to life-threatening.

  • Scleroderma is not contagious.
  • Though not inherited, there may be a familial predisposition.
  • While seemingly rare, scleroderma is thought to be more prevalent than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or several other better-known diseases.
  • Scleroderma, or ‘systemic sclerosis,’ affects approximately 20 people in every 100,000.
  • The cause is unknown though some chemical and environmental links have been acknowledged.

Scleroderma is a devastating chronic autoimmune connective tissue disease characterized by abnormal fibrotic processes that can affect multiple organ systems, including the skin, kidneys, heart lungs and gastrointestinal tract. It can cause immune dysfunction and vascular injury.

The name Scleroderma derives from the Greek words skleros (hard) and derma (skin) and reflects the disfigurement experienced in scleroderma due to increased production and deposits of collagen in the skin. There is no known cure for scleroderma and individuals with the disease may face high rates of morbidity and mortality, as well as substantial disability and impaired function. It was discovered in the mid-1700’s.

Research into finding a cure for scleroderma is of tremendous importance. However, up to the last ten years or so very little was being done in Canada to address problems faced by persons with scleroderma. The formation of the Scleroderma Society of Canada and the creation of the Canadian Scleroderma Research Group in a symbiotic relationship, has made remarkable progress in a very short time. SASK is a member of the Scleroderma Society of Canada, as is every provincial group in Canada, who in turn support the Canadian Scleroderma Research Group’s national research program.

Symptoms of Scleroderma May Include One or More of the Following:
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon (abnormal sensitivity to cold)
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Thickening of the skin, joint contractures
  • Digestive system and gastro-intestinal tract problems
  • Oral, facial and dental problems
  • Kidney, heart and lung dysfunction.
Non specific Symptoms:

Extreme fatigue, generalized weakness, weight loss and vague aching of muscles, joints and bone.

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