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What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

One of the hallmarks is the thickening or hardening of the skin. This is literally what the word means in Greek (sclero=hard, derma=skin). However, the term systemic sclerosis is probably a better name as it tells us more about the condition. This name indicates that (a) it is a systemic disease, that is, it may affect many parts of the body, and (b) sclerosis is the medical term for the thickening or hardening of the tissues, which is a major part of this condition.

Scleroderma can cause serious damage to internal organs including the lungs, heart, kidneys, esophagus, and gastrointestinal tract. As such, it is often referred to as a “multi-system” disease. It can be life-threatening. Scleroderma is three to four times more prevalent in women.

What Scleroderma is not Scleroderma is not contagious, it is not infectious, and it is not cancerous or malignant.