SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Scleroderma symptoms vary, depending on which organ systems are involved. Diagnosis can be difficult because some of the early symptoms are common in the general population and aren't always associated with scleroderma. The most prevalent signs and symptoms of scleroderma include:
- Raynaud's phenomenon. An exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, this condition constricts the small blood vessels in the hands and feet and causes numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition to acid reflux, which can damage the section of esophagus nearest your stomach, you may also have problems absorbing nutrients if your intestinal muscles aren't moving food properly through your intestines.
- Skin changes. These changes may include swollen fingers and hands; thickened patches of skin, particularly on the fingers; and tight skin around the hands, face or mouth. Skin can appear shiny because it's so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
The two main varieties of localized scleroderma, which affects only the skin, are distinguished by very distinctive signs and symptoms:
- Morphea. This variety features oval-shaped thickened patches of skin that are white in the middle, with a purple border. Skin patches could appear in only a few spots on your body or be more widespread, appearing all over your body. Morphea generally fades out after three to five years, but you may retain areas of darkened skin where the areas of thickened skin appeared.
- Linear scleroderma. This variety, which is more common in children, features bands or streaks of hardened skin on one or both arms or legs, or on the forehead. Linear scleroderma often appears mostly on one side of the body.
With localized scleroderma, the first signs of disease may be the presence of Raynaud's phenomenon and may develop several years before you notice any other symptoms.
This type of scleroderma, also called systemic sclerosis, affects not only your skin but also your blood vessels and internal organs. Subcategories are defined by what portions of your body are affected. One variation is known as limited scleroderma, or CREST syndrome.
With systemic scleroderma, skin changes may occur suddenly and progressively worsen during the first one to two years of the disease. After that, changes level off or subside, and sometimes even resolve on their own without treatment.
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