In dermatology, we often treat many common skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema, but we are also trained to identify and treat rare diseases. This is why it is important to be evaluated by a dermatology provider when experiencing a change in your skin.

Today we would like to highlight a rare skin disease called scleroderma.

Scleroderma

Scleroderma affects more than 300,000 Americans. It can affect people of all ages including children and the elderly. It affects all ethnicities. Scleroderma is a group of chronic skin diseases that are characterized by smooth, hard, changing skin lesions that may appear shiny, yellow or ivory in color. The skin is no longer stretchy causing what is called loss of elasticity and feels rigid. The word scleroderma means “hard skin”.

There are differing types of scleroderma. Typically, it is divided into two subtypes described as either localized or systemic and is determined by where the symptoms occur. It can involve just the skin and is called cutaneous scleroderma. Cutaneous scleroderma can involve one or a few areas of the skin in which case, it is referred to as morphea, or can be generalized or widespread across the body. Systemic scleroderma is a severe form of scleroderma that affects the internal organs.

The effects of scleroderma can cause disfigurement, disability and can be life-threatening for some. The exact cause of scleroderma is unknown but believed to be caused by several factors. Autoimmune, genetics and some environmental factors may predispose patients to developing this disease.

There is no cure for scleroderma and treatment is aimed at reducing the progression and effects of the disease. Clinical trials and research are ongoing, and treatment often requires a team approach between dermatology and rheumatology to find an effective treatment strategy. As with any condition, each person is different in how they will respond.

For more information visit:

National Scleroderma Foundation  https://scleroderma.org/

American Academy of Dermatology Association  https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/scleroderma-overview

References

James, W. D., Elston, D. M., Treat, J. R., & Rosenbach, M. A. (2019). Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin (13th ed.). Elsevier – OHCE.

Lebwohl, M. G., Heymann, W. R., Berth-Jones, J., & Coulson, I. H. (2017). Treatment of Skin Disease (5th ed.). Elsevier – OHCE.