Diffuse Scleroderma





Scleroderma (otherwise known as systemic sclerosis) is an autoimmune connective tissue disease that is prominently manifested in the skin. Diffuse scleroderma is one of the types of systemic sclerosis that affects a large expanse of skin and some internal organs.

Systemic sclerosis, in general, is a rare disorder. In the United States, it is said that it has an annual incidence of roughly 20 cases in 1 million adults, with a prevalence of about 240 cases per 1 million adult individuals.

People who are afflicted with this disorder may find difficult to perform some of his activities of daily living. Depending on the internal organs affected, people with diffuse scleroderma may have impaired respiration, feeding, elimination, and walking, among other functions.



The cause of systemic sclerosis is unknown. All that is understood about this condition is that it is autoimmune, wherein the immune system of the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. Theories concerning the etiology of this condition involve genetics (hereditary factors), infections, environmental exposure to irritants, and autoimmunity.

Diffuse scleroderma is not an infectious disease. It cannot be contracted from physical contact with another person who is suffering from the condition. The age of onset for diffuse scleroderma is from 25 to 55. It is also more common in females than in males, with a ratio of more or less 4-to-1 cases.


Signs and Symptoms

This condition affects not only the skin, but also other organ systems. The systems commonly involved in diffuse scleroderma are the following:

  • Integumentary System: Affected areas may exhibit skin that is hard and thickened. This can possibly cause painful joint contractures and limit joint movements. There is also swelling of the fingers and toes. Ulceration and pitting may occur on the fingertips. There can also be tightening of the skin on the face, including the lips. Skin can also be dry and itchy, which reduced skin growth in the affected areas.
  • Musculoskeletal System: Joint movement is limited due to contractures and muscular deterioration. There is also joint pain and swelling.
  • Digestive System: Scarring on the esophageal tract can sometimes make swallowing painful and difficult. Heartburn and delayed gastric emptying is also common. Bowel motility is also reduced, causing nutrient malabsorption, and diarrhea or constipation.
  • Respiratory System: Lung problems such as pulmonary hypertension and scarring may occur.
  • Excretory System: Kidney failure may become a problem once blood flow to the kidneys is reduced.
  • Cardiovascular System: Scarring in the heart tissue can occur. A patient with diffuse scleroderma may also suffer from irregular heart rate, palpitations, and syncope. They are also prone to hypertension.


The presenting symptom for majority of diffuse scleroderma cases, however, is the secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon wherein blood flow to the fingers and toes, and sometimes to the ears and nose, are blocked due to spasms resulting from cold temperatures or strong emotions. In this phenomenon, the affected areas turn white, and then later turn blue. These episodes may last from a couple of minutes to a few hours.



There is no specific treatment for diffuse scleroderma as of the moment. The symptoms are addressed as they manifest on the patient, thus the treatment is mostly palliative. Common treatments include skin care and lubricants to promote skin healing, changes in activities to prevent occurrence of the Raynaud’s phenomenon, diet modifications, and physical therapy to counteract contractions and muscle atrophy.


Disability Tax Credits for Diffuse Scleroderma

Diffuse scleroderma is a debilitating disease, taking away your ability to function normally in your daily activities. If you or someone you know and love has been diagnosed with this condition, you may be entitled to a disability tax refund. All you need to do is to secure the certification from your physician, and give us a call. We at HandyTax are ready to serve you regarding your disability tax needs.