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Scleroderma literally means "hard skin". This is a pathological skin or connective tissue hardening. The disease is one of the so-called collagenoses.
The cause of scleroderma is not known exactly. Genetic factors and pathological autoimmune processes have been proven. About 30 out of every 100,000 people get sick, mostly between the ages of 50 and 60 years. Women are about three times more likely to be affected than men.
In circumscribed scleroderma, also called morpheae, the hardening occurs only in the connective tissue under the skin. It usually begins imperceptibly as a small red spot on different parts of the body. Very slowly, the red spots increase and are often registered only when they have become about coin size. Later, in the center of the patches, a hardening of the skin appears, which looks like an ivory smooth plate. Such plates often lead to joints in movement restrictions.
The blood vessels, the internal organs - simply all perfused tissue consists of connective tissue, and in the so-called systemic scleroderma, the connective tissue hardening throughout the body on organs, which may affect their function. The connective tissue of the lung, kidneys, esophagus and heart is particularly frequently affected. This systemic form of scleroderma is life-threatening in its entirety.
Both variants of scleroderma spread slowly over years and initially painless, so they are often recognized very late. The diagnosis is based on the typical Morpheae and laboratory chemistry. Organ involvement can also be demonstrated by biopsy, pulmonary function tests and computed tomography. A cure of scleroderma is not possible, their progression can be slowed down with cytostatic and immunosuppressive drugs.