The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life threatening. The seriousness severity depends on which parts of the body are affected and the extent to which they are affected. Prompt and accurate diagnosis and treatment may minimize the symptoms of scleroderma and lessen the chance of irreversible damage.
Skin. Nearly everyone who has scleroderma experiences a hardening and tightening of patches of the skin. These patches may be shaped like ovals or somewhat linear; they can be limited to a small area or cover wide areas of the trunk and limbs. The number, location and size of the patches vary by type of scleroderma. Skin can appear shiny because it's so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
Fingers or toes. One of the earliest signs of scleroderma is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, which can cause numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes. Called Raynaud's disease, this condition can also occur in people who don't have scleroderma.
Digestive system. In addition to acid reflux, which can damage the section of esophagus nearest the stomach, some people with scleroderma may also have problems absorbing nutrients if their intestinal muscles aren't moving food properly through the intestines.
Heart, lungs or kidneys. Scleroderma can affect the function of the heart, lungs or kidneys to varying degrees. These problems, if left untreated, can become life-threatening.