Hardening of the Skin



dermatologist examining senior woman's skin


The chronic connective tissue disease known as “scleroderma” is derived from the two Greek words “sclero,” meaning hard, and “derma,” meaning skin. Generally classified as an autoimmune rheumatic disease, scleroderma is not contagious, infectious, cancerous or malignant. Research thus far only indicates that the disease is not necessarily genetic (although there is a susceptibility gene) and that it involves an overproduction of collagen. In some cases, the disease affects only the skin, but it also can involve important structures such as blood vessels, internal organs, and the digestive tract. One of the earliest signs of scleroderma is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures that causes numbness, color changes, or pain in the fingers and toes. Women are affected more commonly than men, and the disease usually occurs between ages 30 and 50. A variety of treatments are available for symptoms, but there is no cure.


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