The visible signs of limited scleroderma — tight, thick skin on your fingers, hands and face — can affect the way you feel about your appearance; make everyday tasks, such as opening a jar or shaving, more difficult; and even affect your speech. But the most serious complications tend to occur beneath your skin.
April 30, 2014
- Gastrointestinal problems. Changes in the functioning of esophageal muscles can cause difficulty swallowing and chronic heartburn. When limited scleroderma affects your intestine, you may experience constipation, diarrhea, bloating after meals, unintended weight loss and malnutrition.
- Ulcers on fingers and toes. Severe Raynaud's phenomenon can obstruct blood flow to your extremities and may cause ulcers of the fingers and toes. These ulcers can be difficult to heal. Additionally, abnormal or narrowed blood vessels combined with severe Raynaud's phenomenon can lead to gangrene of fingers or toes, which may require amputation.
- Lung damage. Limited scleroderma can cause a variety of problems with your lungs. In some cases, excess collagen collects in the tissue between the lungs' air sacs, making the lung tissue stiffer and less able to work properly. Increased blood pressure in the arteries between your heart and lungs makes the heart work harder and eventually weakens it.
- Heart problems. Scarring of heart tissue can lead to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and, in rare cases, to an inflamed heart muscle (myocarditis).
- Dental problems. Severe tightening of facial skin can make it difficult to open your mouth wide enough to brush your teeth. Acid reflux can destroy tooth enamel, and changes in gum tissue may cause your teeth to become loose or even fall out.
- Dry eyes and mouth. Many people with limited scleroderma experience very dry eyes and mouth.
- Imboden JB, et al. Current Rheumatology Diagnosis & Treatment. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=809. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- Handout on health: Scleroderma. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scleroderma/default.asp#3. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- Van don Hoogen F, et al. 2013 classification criteria for systemic sclerosis: An American college of rheumatology/European league against rheumatism collaborative initiative. Annals of the Rheumatic Disease. 2013;72:1747.
- Denton CP. Overview of the treatment and prognosis of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.