Various medical specialists can diagnose scleroderma. The diagnosis is largely determined by the results of a physical exam, including a look at your symptoms. The diagnosis may be fairly easy to make if you have typical symptoms and rapid skin thickening. However, a diagnosis can take months, or even years, to confirm if you only exhibit a few symptoms or they go away on their own.
Depending on your particular symptoms, a scleroderma diagnosis can be made by one of the following:
- A general internist
- A dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the skin, hair, and nails)
- An orthopedist (a doctor who treats bone and joint disorders)
- A pulmonologist (a lung specialist)
- A rheumatologist (a doctor specializing in the treatment of rheumatic diseases).
A scleroderma diagnosis is based largely on your medical history and findings from a physical exam. When considering the diagnosis, your healthcare provider will ask you a lot of questions about what has happened to you over time and about any symptoms that you may be experiencing, such as:
Once your healthcare provider has gathered a thorough medical history, he or she will perform a physical exam.
Finding one or more of the following factors can help the healthcare provider diagnose a certain form of scleroderma:
- Changed skin appearance and texture, including swollen fingers and hands and tight skin around the hands, face, mouth, or elsewhere
- Calcium deposits developing under the skin
- Changes in the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) at the base of the fingernails
- Thickened skin patches.