Scleroderma (Systemic Sclerosis)
Scleroderma is a rare autoimmune condition that causes the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissue underneath it. The condition can also impact underlying blood vessels and organs. Affected individuals may exhibit Raynaud’s phenomenon - a condition where the fingers and toes may become numb and cool and turn white or blue in color as a response to cold temperatures or other stressors. Patients may notice gradual hardening and tightening of the skin that first begins on the fingers, hands, feet, and face resulting in the hands taking on a claw-like appearance. Additional skin findings may include sores on the fingertips, calcium deposits beneath the skin (hard, painful lumps in the skin), and small broken blood vessels known as telangiectasias on the face and hands. The condition can also affect the digestive system, heart, lungs, kidneys, and/or the joints, manifesting with various symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, abnormal heartbeats, heart failure, shortness of breath, kidney failure, and/or restricted movement and mobility. While no cure exists for scleroderma, various medications are available to help treat symptoms and prevent further complications.