Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms

Scleroderma is a complex disease with many possible symptoms that can affect various parts of the body. It is highly individualized so symptoms and severity differ greatly, ranging from mild to potentially life threatening.

The most characteristic feature of scleroderma is skin thickening or fibrosis. Less visible but of major importance are the tiny lesions that occur in small blood vessels (vascular lesions), which may involve major organs.  Pain, ranging in severity from uncomfortable to debilitating, is a common characteristic of the disease.

Other common symptoms may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Raynaud's Phenomenon:  A condition in which the small blood vessels of the hands or feet contract in response to cold or anxiety. As the vessels contract, the hands or feet turn white and cold, then blue. As blood flow returns, they become red.
  • General fatigue
  • Inflammation of the muscles (i.e. polymyositis)
  • Swelling, then skin thickening (i.e. fibrosis) or tightness, particularly in the hands
  • Joint or bone aching
  • Stiffness of hands and feet
  • Skin discoloration
  • Heartburn
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Dry mucus membranes
  • Calcium deposits under the skin
  • Unexplained ulcers on fingers or toes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bowel dysfunction
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