The type and subtype of scleroderma a person has will affect the symptoms experienced. In most people, common scleroderma symptoms include swelling and puffiness of the fingers or hands and Raynaud's phenomenon (a disorder that affects blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears, and nose). CREST is the acronym used to describe symptoms of systemic scleroderma. Symptoms associated with this type include calcinosis, esophageal dysfunction, and sclerodactyly.
The diseases known collectively as scleroderma fall into two main types:
Each type of scleroderma has subtypes, and each type can have different symptoms.
Localized Scleroderma Symptoms
Localized scleroderma only affects the skin, related tissues, and the muscles below the tissues. It does not affect the internal organs, and it will never progress to systemic scleroderma. Although localized conditions usually improve or go away on their own, over time, the skin changes and damage that occurs when the disease is active can be permanent. For some people, localized scleroderma can be serious and disabling. The two recognized types of localized scleroderma are:
Morphea Scleroderma Symptoms
Morphea comes from a Greek word that means "form" or "structure." The word refers to local patches of scleroderma. The first signs of the disease are reddish patches of skin that thicken into firm, oval-shaped areas. The center of each patch becomes ivory-colored with violet borders. These patches sweat very little and have little hair growth. Patches appear most often on the chest, stomach, and back. However, they may appear on the face, arms, and legs.
Morphea can be localized or generalized. Localized morphea limits itself to one or several patches, ranging in size from a half-inch to 12 inches in diameter. The condition sometimes appears on areas treated by radiation therapy. Some people have both morphea and linear scleroderma, which is referred to as generalized morphea. This occurs when the skin patches become hard and dark, and spread over larger areas of the body.
Regardless of the type, morphea generally fades away in three to five years. However, people are often left with darkened skin patches and, in rare cases, muscle weakness.