Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Wearing gloves can help prevent symptoms of scleroderma.

Wearing gloves can help prevent symptoms of scleroderma.
beginning of content


2-minute read

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is thought to be an auto-immune condition, meaning the immune system attacks healthy tissue. People with scleroderma produce too much collagen, which makes their skin hard and tight.

Scleroderma can either be ‘localised’, which only affects the skin, or ‘diffuse’, which affects internal organs or blood vessels as well as skin. This is sometimes known as systemic sclerosis.

What are the symptoms of scleroderma?

The symptoms of scleroderma vary according to which part of your body is affected. Usually there is thickening and hardening of the skin, especially on the fingers, arms and face.

Another common symptom is Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is a blood circulation problem that causes your fingers or toes to change colour and feel numb or painful in the cold.

Other symptoms of scleroderma include joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, indigestion or heartburn. Diffuse scleroderma can also cause symptoms in the heart, lungs and kidneys.

How is scleroderma diagnosed?

Your doctor may diagnose scleroderma from talking to you and examining you. They may also take a blood test and a small skin sample (biopsy).

How is scleroderma treated?

There is no cure for scleroderma, but there are treatments that can improve symptoms. Medication can improve circulation and suppress the immune system, which may slow down the disease. If your organs are affected, you may be referred to a specialist, such as a kidney specialist if your kidneys are affected.

Lifestyle changes may make it easier to live with scleroderma. These include:

  • wearing gloves and socks to keep your hands and feet warm, to prevent Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • avoiding cigarette smoke, as this affects blood circulation
  • regular physical activity to help keep skin and joints flexible
  • keeping skin moisturised and clean to prevent dryness and infection
  • joining a support group such as those organised by Scleroderma Australia

You can also talk to your doctor or an occupational therapist about aids and equipment that can make it easier to manage day to day.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Raynaud's disease -

Raynaud's disease causes spasm of the arteries leading to fingers and toes, causing them to feel numb and turn white, blue and red then tingle and feel painful.

Read more on myDr website

Scleroderma — Arthritis Australia

The word ‘scleroderma’ means ‘hard skin’

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Scleroderma -

Scleroderma is a generalised disease which produces fibrosis, degeneration and inflammation of skin and other tissue. People with scleroderma have too much of a protein called collagen.

Read more on myDr website

What is scleroderma?

We don’t know exactly what causes scleroderma but we know that it involves many factors.

Read more on Autoimmune Resource and Research Centre website

Scleroderma — Types, Causes, & Treatment | MSK Australia

Do you have Scleroderma? Find out more about your musculoskeletal condition, how to manage, and where to find support. Contact us today on 1800 263 265

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

Scleroderma - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Centromere Ab - Lab Tests Online AU

How, when and why the Centromere antibody test is used

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Antinuclear Ab - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for antinuclear antibodies

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is the name given to the temporary interruption of blood supply to the fingers or toes (occasionally the ears and nose), which occurs as a result of spasm causing the vessel to squeeze and get smaller.

Read more on Autoimmune Resource and Research Centre website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Raynaud phenomenon

Raynaud phenomenon is an intermittent constriction of the blood flow to the fingers and toes precipitated by cold, emotion and some drugs that cause spasm of the small arteries bringing blood to the fingers and toes.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo