Early symptoms of scleroderma

Scleroderma The early symptoms of scleroderma often include a magnified reaction to cold temperatures or emotional distress, causing numbness, pain, or color changes in the fingers and toes. This specific event is known as Raynaud’s syndrome and people who do not have scleroderma can also experience it. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the other signs of this autoimmune disorder that causes skin and connective tissues to tighten and harden, and which depend on the body part affected.

Scleroderma symptoms

Type of scleroderma

Body part affected



Skin on the hands and face

  • Stiff and tight skin on fingers, hands, and forearm.
  • Sores on the fingertips or toes.
  • Tight, mask-like skin on the face.
  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling of fingers.

Systemic (sclerosis)

Heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs, as well as large areas of the skin.

  • Hardening and tightening of oval-shaped or straight patches of skin.
  • Tight skin may appear shiny.
  • Restricted movement in the affected area.
  • Darker than normal skin.
  • Small white lumps beneath the skin that may ooze a white, toothpaste-looking substance that looks.
  • Heart, lung, and kidney problems.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Hair loss.
  • Joint pain.
  • Numbness and pain in the feet.
  • Wrist pain.
  • Dry cough.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Bloating after meals.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Problems swallowing.
  • Esophageal reflux.
  • Heartburn.
  • Stool-control problems.

These symptoms result from a build-up of collagen in body tissues. Women, especially Choctaw Native Americans and African-Americans, are more likely to experience the early symptoms of scleroderma. People between the ages of 30 and 50 are also at an increased risk. Sometimes the skin problems related to scleroderma disappear on their own in 3-5 years. However, internal organs do not recover so easily, and people with this condition can face moderate to severe complications.

Complications of scleroderma


  • Damaged tissue.
  • Skin sores.
  • Gangrene and amputation.


  • Pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Decreased lung function.
  • Pulmonary hypertension.


  • High blood pressure.
  • Excess protein in urine.
  • Renal crisis.
  • Rapid kidney failure.


  • Arrhythmia.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Pericarditis.


  • Dental decay.

Digestive system

  • Acid reflux.
  • Dysphagia.
  • Constipation alternating with diarrhea.


  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Decreased sexual lubrication.
  • Constriction of the vaginal opening.

The protean nature of scleroderma can make it difficult to diagnose. In fact, a scleroderma diagnosis can be made by such diverse specialists as general internists, dermatologists, orthopedists, pulmonologists, and rheumatologists. Several tests and exams can help in this endeavor, though, including:

  • Physical exam.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA) panel.
  • Antibody testing.
  • ESR (sed rate).
  • Rheumatoid factor.
  • Chest x-ray.
  • CT scan of the lungs.
  • Echocardiogram.
  • Urinalysis.
  • Tests to see how well lungs and gastrointestinal (GI) tract are working.
  • Skin biopsy.

There is no specific treatment or cure for this condition, but several treatment options can help relieve the early symptoms of scleroderma as well as prevent complications.

Scleroderma treatment alternatives


  • Corticosteroids.
  • Methotrexate and Cytoxan.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Prilosec.
  • Antibiotic ointments.


  • Pain management.
  • Improving strength and mobility.


  • Amputation.
  • Lung transplant.

In addition to the treatment prescribed by a doctor, scleroderma patients can take measures themselves to cope with effect of this disorder on their lives, physical and otherwise – bear in mind that this condition can also take a toll on a person’s appearance and self-esteem, personal self-care, and family relationships.

Dealing with scleroderma

Lifestyle changes


  • Physical activity (especially range-of-motion exercises).
  • Quitting smoking or not starting at all.
  • Managing heartburn.
  • Wearing warm clothes.
  • Go about your daily activities as best as possible.
  • Do not overexert yourself.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Rely on family and friends.
  • Continue enjoying pleasant activities.
  • Join a support group.


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