Rheumatology located in Tustin and Laguna Hills, CA


About Scleroderma

The Greek words skleros (hard) and derma (skin) derive the term scleroderma. Leading board-certified rheumatologist Behnam Khaleghi, MD, understands the challenges of scleroderma, and offers highly customized treatment plans at his state-of-the-art practice, Pacific Rheumatology Center. Although not curable, you can manage scleroderma and have a high quality of life again. Call the Tustin or Laguna Hills, California, office or click the online appointment feature to get support from the compassionate specialists.

Scleroderma Q&A

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s connective tissues and sometimes internal organs. It happens when the body’s immune system senses an injury where one doesn’t exist. 

As part of the body’s injury response, fibroblast cells create an abundance of collagen, an essential protein that makes up nearly one-third of all the protein in the body. 

However, excessive collagen means your skin can thicken, tighten, and harden. It may have other more damaging effects. The main types of scleroderma are: 

Localized scleroderma

Localized scleroderma occurs when skin hardens and thickens in just a few areas. It may also affect the tissues beneath your skin, like your muscles. This type of scleroderma usually doesn’t spread and typically doesn’t affect internal organs. 

Systemic sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis affects your skin and can harm your internal organs and circulatory system. This issue occurs when the excess collagen starts hardening within the body. It can cause organs like the lungs, intestines, heart, or kidneys to stop working.

Scleroderma affects around 300,000 Americans today. Around 33% of people with scleroderma have systemic sclerosis (the more severe type). 

What are the signs of scleroderma?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common early symptom of scleroderma. It happens when your fingers or toes turn white, blue, or red. They may feel numb or prickly. It usually occurs in cold weather or when you’re stressed. 

Other symptoms can include: 

  • Thick, tight, and rigid skin patches
  • Hair loss in areas with hardened skin
  • Reduced sweating in areas with hardened skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Joint stiffness
  • Reduced joint range-of-motion
  • Difficulty stretching muscles
  • Skin patches look lighter or darker than the surrounding skin

Scleroderma symptoms often vary from one patient to the next.

How does the doctor treat scleroderma? 

The Pacific Rheumatology Center team understands your unique situation and tailors your diagnosis and treatment plan. 

You may need blood, imaging, lung function tests, or a skin biopsy to diagnose scleroderma and guide treatment.

Treatment focuses on easing symptoms and preventing the immune system from damaging your body further. The team offers a spectrum of scleroderma treatments, including innovative disease-modifying biological therapies like rituximab through intravenous (IV) therapy. 

Scleroderma is controllable, and the Pacific Rheumatology Center team is ready to personalize your treatment. Call the nearest office or schedule your appointment online for scleroderma help.