How Your Doctor Will Identify Scleroderma

Tests Used to Make a Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider may order lab tests to help confirm the diagnosis of scleroderma. At least two proteins, called antibodies, are commonly found in the blood of people with scleroderma. They are:
  • Antitopoisomerase-1 or Anti-Scl-70 antibodies, which appear in the blood of up to 40 percent of people with diffuse systemic sclerosis
  • Anticentromere antibodies, which are found in the blood of as many as 90 percent of people with limited systemic sclerosis.
Several other, less frequent scleroderma-specific antibodies can occur in people with the condition as well.
Because not all people with scleroderma have these antibodies and because not all people with the antibodies have scleroderma, lab test results alone cannot confirm a scleroderma diagnosis.
In some cases, your doctor may order a skin biopsy (the surgical removal of a small sample of skin for microscopic examination) to aid in or help confirm a diagnosis. However, skin biopsies have limitations and results cannot distinguish between localized and systemic disease.

(Click Localized Scleroderma or Systemic Scleroderma for more information about these scleroderma types.)

The Timeframe for a Scleroderma Diagnosis

Your doctor will be able to diagnose you with scleroderma if you have typical symptoms and rapid skin thickening. However, a diagnosis may take months, or even years, to confirm if your disease only shows some symptoms of scleroderma and your doctor is able to rule out other potential causes for these. In some cases, a diagnosis is never made because the symptoms that prompted the visit to the doctor go away on their own.

Scleroderma Disease

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