Scleroderma (which comes from the Greek meaning ‘hard skin’) is a connective tissue disease that affects the skin and other major internal organs. Excess collagen is laid down in these organs which in turn results in scarring and reduced normal function of the affected organs.
There are two main groups of scleroderma, and within each group there are further subsets:
1. Systemic sclerosis - the systemic form of scleroderma, which affects the internal organs as well as the skin.
2. Localised scleroderma - a type of scleroderma that affects specific areas of skin and underlying tissues, but does not involve the internal organs.
It is more common in women than men and can affect adults of any age or children (childhood-onset scleroderma), although it most often develops in women between the ages of 30 and 50. Scleroderma affects everyone differently and it is not possible to predict who will experience which symptoms. We have detailed leaflets available on the different issues affecting people with scleroderma across all age groups and during pregnancy.
Significant advances have been made in understanding the underlying mechanisms driving this condition but the precise causes are not fully understood. However, many treatments are available to help to manage the symptoms and also to slow down progression of this condition.
Comprehensive information on all aspects of scleroderma is available in our booklet:
Understanding and Managing Scleroderma (pdf).
More detailed information on different problems in scleroderma can be found in our information leaflets.
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