Systemic Sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis is a rare chronic disease of unknown cause characterized by diffuse fibrosis and vascular abnormalities in the skin, joints, and internal organs, especially the esophagus, lower gastrointestinal tract, lungs, heart, and kidneys. It can hinder digestive and respiratory functions and cause kidney failure.

Systemic scleroderma can sometimes become serious and life-threatening.
  • Symptoms
  • Fingers color changes


    Thick skin on arm, wrist, forearm, or hand

    • In hand

    or Thick skin on legs or feet




    Enlarged fingers

    • In both hands

    or Enlarged toes

    • In both feet


    Difficulty moving fingers


    Weight loss


    Acid reflux

    • Recurrent

    • Occurs or worsens after a meal

    or Swallowing difficulties

    • Solids only, Foods and drinks


    Joint pain

    • In fingers

    • At wrist

    • Knees

    • Elbows

    • Both sides of the body

    • Recurrent

    • Occurs or worsens when joint is used or stressed

    or Pain at fingertip(s)


    Difficulty breathing

    • Recurrent

    • Occurs or worsens with exertion

    • During sleep

    • Occurs when lying flat


    Joint stiffness

    • Difficulty moving knee, Limited ankle movement, Difficulty moving wrist, Difficulty moving elbow

    or Difficulty moving toes


    Abdominal bloating

    or Feel like vomiting

    or Throwing up

    or Alternation between diarrhea and constipation

    or Strained voice

    or Feeling full quickly


    Itchy skin


    Erectile dysfunction

    • Gradual onset

    or Pain during sexual intercourse


    Cough with mucus or without mucus

    • Dry

    Decreased urine

    or High blood pressure disease

    or Urine with bubbles unrelated to speed of urination or bladder fullness

    Irregular heartbeat

    or Fainting

    or Swollen neck vein

    or Swollen belly

    or Enlarged feet or ankle

    • In both feet or ankles

    or Swelling in lower leg(s)

    • In both lower legs

    Muscle pain

    Chest pain

    • Change in body position doesn't change the pain

    • Occurs or worsens with exertion

    • Center of the chest, Left side

    or Chest tightness

    Light spots of skin

    Dark patches of skin

    Thinning or loss of hair anywhere

    High blood pressure

  • Risk factors
  • Lung cancer

    Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Treatment
  • At present, there is no cure for systemic sclerosis, limited or diffuse. However, much can be done to help. The aims of treatment are: 1-To relieve symptoms. For the skin, moisturizers and stretching exercises help with dry or tight skin. Raynaud's phenomenon symptoms are reduced by keeping the hands warm - for example, by using heated gloves. Medicines that open up the arteries to bring more blood to the fingers can be used to improve the symptoms. 2-To prevent the condition from progressing, as much as possible: Treatments are used which suppress the body's immune system (because it is the immune system that is overactive in systemic sclerosis). 3-To detect and treat complications early. Regular monitoring is needed to check blood pressure, kidney function (with blood and urine tests) and lungs (which may need a scan). These tests may detect changes before any symptoms are noticed and early detection allows early treatment. 4-To minimise any disability. For example: If required, physiotherapists can advise on exercises to keep joints mobile and muscles strong.
  • Recommended specialist
  • If you have Systemic Sclerosis, then a visit to a rheumatologist is highly recommended.

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