Scleroderma occurs when immune cells activate, producing scar tissue in the skin, internal organs, and small blood vessels. The condition is characterized by skin that progressively becomes hard and thickened. Early symptoms typically include swelling and puffiness of the fingers or hands and Raynaud's phenomenon (a disorder that affects the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears, and nose).
What causes scleroderma? Scientists suspect that it could be related to several factors, including abnormal immune activity, environment, and hormones. However, the exact cause of the disease is unknown.
(To learn more about this disease, including other potential symptoms and treatment options, click Scleroderma.)