Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder, a chronic condition in which the body mistakenly damages normal tissue. In healthy individuals, the immune system protects the body from infections. But for those with scleroderma, the immune system is confused and impaired causing tightening and hardening of the skin and connective tissues. If only the skin is affected, it is considered "localized" and a mild version of the disease. If the condition affects the internal organs, it is called systemic sclerosis (SSc) and can lead to serious complications such as trouble breathing, chest pain, bleeding and anemia.
There is no specific cause for scleroderma and diagnosis is difficult because the disease shares many similarities with other autoimmune disorders. A thorough examination and blood test are needed to determine if you have scleroderma. There is no cure for this chronic condition, but once there is a diagnosis, there are many treatments that can help improve symptoms. Patients should be monitored by a rheumatologist and other specialists depending on the organ system involved in their particular case.