The word 'scleroderma' means 'hard skin'. Scleroderma affects the connective tissues of the body (tissues that hold together joints, muscles, blood vessels and internal organs). The connective tissues of people with scleroderma have too much of a protein called collagen. Collagen is important to give connective tissue its strength, but excess collagen causes hardening and tightening of the affected area. Many different areas of the body can be affected. There are two major types of scleroderma:
- Localised scleroderma (sometimes called 'morphea'). This form of scleroderma affects only the skin and sometimes the tissues beneath it (for example, muscle). This can lead to stiffness and difficulties moving the joints in the affected areas.
- Systemic sclerosis. This form affects the connective tissue throughout the body, including blood vessels, joints, the digestive system (oesophagus, stomach and bowel), and occasionally the lungs, heart, kidneys and muscles.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition. The normal role of your body's immune system is to fight off infections and diseases to keep you healthy. In an autoimmune disease like scleroderma, your immune system starts attacking your own healthy tisues. This stimulates the productions of excess collagen.
To learn more about scleroderma, download the information sheet and booklet to help you understand how you may be affected and what you can do to manage it, as well as where to find further information and advice.