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Scleroderma is a rare and chronic condition that can affect many parts of your body including the skin, joints, blood vessels and internal organs. The word "scleroderma" means hard skin. One of the most visible symptoms of the condition, also called systemic sclerosis, is hardening or thickening of the skin. The disease affects women three to five times more often than men and usually develops between the ages of 30 to 50, but can occur in children and the elderly.

Scleroderma can be limited, affecting mainly the hands and face, or diffuse, affecting the arms, legs and trunk. Symptoms can vary widely from arthritis and muscle weakening to kidney problems.

The disease involves an excess amount of a protein – called collagen – deposited in the skin and organs, which leads to the thickening and hardening of the skin.

The condition is not contagious or infectious, and the cause is unknown.

Many medications are available to help treat the condition and control symptoms, but there is not yet a cure.

Our Approach to Scleroderma

UCSF provides comprehensive evaluations and advanced care for scleroderma. Because scleroderma can affect different systems in the body, our team includes several types of doctors, such as rheumatologists, dermatologists and plastic surgeons who focus on autoimmune disease. We also work closely with colleagues who specialize in interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension and other potential complications of scleroderma.

Treatment options include medications to address symptoms and complications of scleroderma. We also recommend exercise and physical therapy to increase flexibility and protect joints. Although there is currently no cure for scleroderma, we are dedicated to alleviating patients' suffering.

We are also dedicated to improving the understanding and treatment of scleroderma through research. Interested patients may have the option to receive investigational treatments by participating in clinical trials.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-rheumatology

    Best in California for rheumatology

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.