Scleroderma

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Roughly 300,000 people in the United States suffer from scleroderma. This chronic connective tissue disease results from an over-production of collagen in the skin and other organs. Scleroderma usually appears in people between the ages of 25 and 55. Women get scleroderma more often than men. The disease worsens slowly over years.

There are two types of scleroderma: localized scleroderma, which involves only the skin, and systemic scleroderma, which involves the skin and other organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, intestine and gallbladder. Typical symptoms of the skin include skin hardening, skin that is abnormally dark or light, skin thickening, shiny hands and forearms, small white lumps beneath the skin's surface, tight facial skin, ulcerations on the fingers or toes and change in color of the fingers and toes from exposure to heat or cold. Other symptoms impact bones, muscles, lungs and the digestive tract.

There is no known cause of scleroderma, nor is there a cure. There are individualized treatments that are designed to help alleviate certain symptoms and decrease the activity of the immune system to further slow down the disease.