Systemic Scleroderma (cont.)
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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Systemic Scleroderma?
The signs and symptoms of systemic scleroderma usually begin with episodes of Raynaud phenomenon, which can occur weeks to years before fibrosis. In Raynaud phenomenon, the fingers and toes of affected individuals turn white or blue in response to cold temperature or other stresses. This effect occurs because of problems with the small vessels that carry blood to the extremities. Another early sign of systemic scleroderma is puffy or swollen hands before thickening and hardening of the skin due to fibrosis. Skin thickening usually occurs first in the fingers (called sclerodactyly) and may also involve the hands and face. In addition, people with systemic scleroderma often have open sores (ulcers) on their fingers, painful bumps under the skin (calcinosis), or small clusters of enlarged blood vessels just under the skin (telangiectasia).
Fibrosis can also affect internal organs and can lead to impairment or failure of the affected organs. The most commonly affected organs are the esophagus, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Internal organ involvement may be signaled by heartburn, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), high blood pressure (hypertension), kidney problems, shortness of breath, diarrhea, or impairment of the muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract (intestinal pseudo-obstruction).