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Diagnosis & Treatment

Scleroderma Diagnosis

A new diagnosis of scleroderma doesn't have to be overwhelming, even though the disease itself is complex. Diagnosing scleroderma is easiest when a person has typical symptoms and rapid skin thickening. In other cases, a diagnosis may take several months as the disease unfolds and reveals itself, allowing the doctor to rule out other potential causes. In some cases, a diagnosis is never made, because the symptoms that prompted the visit to the doctor go away on their own.


A scleroderma diagnosis is based largely on a thorough evaluation of your medical history, symptoms and findings from the physical exam. Your doctor may also order several lab tests to support the diagnostic process. Depending on your particular symptoms, the diagnosis may be made by a general internist, a dermatologist, an orthopaedist, a respirologist or a rheumatologist. 


Signs and Symptoms

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Scleroderma is a complex disease with many possible symptoms that can affect various parts of the body. It is highly individualized so symptoms and severity differ greatly, ranging from mild to potentially life threatening.  The seriousness will depend on what parts of the body are affected and the extent to which they are affected.  A mild case can become more serious if not properly treated. Prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified physicians may minimize the symptoms of scleroderma and lessen the chance for irreversible damage.

Symptom Management

Due to the highly individualized nature of the disease, symptom management plays a pivotal role in scleroderma treatment. Treatments are specific to the organ or organ systems involved and include both medical and non-medical approaches. An overview of symptom management is provided below:


9/10 Canadians experience extreme sensitivity to cold, which causes the blood vessels in fingers and toes to constrict which leads to reversible digital discolouration.



2/10 Canadians experience high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine can be signs of renal crisis which may quickly lead to kidney failure.


9/10 Canadians experience gradual thickening and tightening of the skin on face, hands, arms, and sometimes the whole body.



8/10 Canadians experience fibrosis and scarring in the lungs and weakened respiratory muscles which leads to shortness of breath and persistent coughing.


8-9/10 Canadians experience stiff, sore, swollen joints, severe fatigue, muscle weakening, and pain.



The heart muscle can become thickened and scarred, and may result in fluid retention, palpitations, shortness of breath, and in some cases, heart failure. 2/10 Canadians experiencing common heart symptoms.


6-8/10 Canadians experience common symptoms which include swallowing difficulties, poor absorption of nutrients, constipation, diarrhea, incontinence, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.



8-9/10 Canadians experience dry eyes and mouth due to decrease in secretions from the tear ducts and salivary glands. Scleroderma also impacts patients teeth.

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