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Causes of Scleroderma

Uncover the myriad causes of scleroderma, delving into the multifaceted factors and origins that play a role in this challenging autoimmune disorder.

  • 22 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is a group of rare diseases characterized by thickening and hardening of the skin. It is an autoimmune connective tissue disorder. It may also affect the blood vessels, internal organs, and digestive system.

Scleroderma is classified into "limited" or "diffuse", depending on the extent of skin involvement. It is possible for both types to involve any other vascular or organ problems. If the skin is the only part of the body affected, then the condition is known as morphea.

Scleroderma cannot be cured, but treatments can ease symptoms, slow its progression, and improve quality of life.


How is Scleroderma Caused?

Scleroderma is characterized by excessive production and buildup of collagen in body tissues. This impacts connective tissues like skin, which is primarily composed of collagen. The precise trigger for this overproduction remains elusive, but it's apparent that the abnormal functioning of the immune system is one of the key causes of scleroderma. The condition may also result from a complex interplay of genes and environmental factors.


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Risk factors

Even though researchers don’t know what causes scleroderma, they have identified some risk factors for this condition.  The risk factors include:

  • Genetics: People who have certain gene variations are more likely to develop scleroderma. It is to be noted that these genes are not passed on from parents to offspring.
  • Environmental triggers: There is evidence to suggest that certain viruses or drugs may trigger scleroderma symptoms in some individuals. It may also be caused by repeated exposure to harmful substances, such as silica or certain solvents.
  • Immune system problems: Scleroderma is considered to be an autoimmune disease, which means the body's immune system attacks the connective tissues. People suffering from this condition may also experience symptoms of other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Sjogren's syndrome.
  • Age: Many of the localised scleroderma types appear before the age of 40. Systemic types of the condition show up between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Gender: Scleroderma is observed to be more prevalent among women than men. 80% of the patients diagnosed worldwide with scleroderma are women.



In conclusion, the causes of scleroderma are multifaceted, involving genetic predisposition, abnormal immune system function, environmental triggers, hormonal factors, and microvascular abnormalities. Complications of scleroderma range from mild to severe, and they may affect fingertips, lungs, kidneys, heart, and teeth. Ongoing research seeks to unravel the exact causes of scleroderma.

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