Scleroderma literally means “hard skin”. Scleroderma, also known as Systemic Sclerosis, is a chronic autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Typically, abnormalities in the blood vessels, connective tissue and the immune system occur, resulting in inflammation and damage affecting the skin, digestive system, heart, lungs, muscles and joints.
Whilst Scleroderma is not a common condition, it can have a profound impact on people and their lifespan. An estimated 20 to 200 people per million are affected worldwide, with the age of onset usually between 30 to 50 years. Women are 4 times more likely to develop the condition than men.
The body’s faulty immune system stimulates the fibroblast cells to produce excess collagen, causing fibrosis. There are two major types based on the extent of skin involvement that causes hardening, thickening and tightness of the skin: Limited Scleroderma and Diffuse Scleroderma with different patterns of involvement and symptoms.