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What is scleroderma

Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis or SSc) is a largely misunderstood chronic disease affecting about four people per 10,000 of population.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which a person’s immune system turns against itself by producing antibodies that attack its own tissues (i.e. autoantibodies).

This disease is derived from the Greek words “skleros” (hard) and “derma” (skin) and is characterized by progressive skin hardening.

In scleroderma, a protein called collagen is made in larger than normal amounts. This protein is important in many different body functions, including making up skin and blood vessels. The increase in collagen causes thickening of the skin and can cause scars to form in different internal organs including the lungs, esophagus, and kidneys. The organs involved may be different for different patients.

In most cases, scleroderma patients have difficulty with coordinating small movements of the hands and fingers. For example, patients may have trouble doing up buttons and writing.

Fast Facts about Scleroderma:

  • Scleroderma is found throughout the world. About 4 in 10,000 people have scleroderma.
  • Scleroderma is 3-5 times more common in women than men.
  • The disease is most commonly diagnosed between ages 30-50, but it can also strike children and people of all age groups.
  • Scleroderma is not contagious.
  • Both limited and diffuse scleroderma are associated with a significant reduction in life expectancy. For people who have mostly skin involvement and no major organs involved, the long-term outlook is more favourable.
  • It is still unknown what exactly causes this autoimmune disease.
  • Since each case is unique, no two patients will follow the same course of the disease.


Contact our Health Promotion Agent

Want more information on systemic sclerosis (aka scleroderma): forms, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatments, specialists, support groups? You or a loved one are newly diagnosed and have many questions about this disease?

Our Health Promotion Agent, a nurse by profession, can help you prepare for your appointment with your medical specialist, help you better understand your test results and provide you with useful advice.

Do not hesitate to leave her a message and you contact information in all confidentiality, and she will get back to you at the earliest opportunity.

Please note that this service is available to Quebec residents only.