Also known as progressive systemic sclerosis
. A rare disease that produces hardening
of the skin, which
becomes smooth, shiny, and tight. The skin of the face may shrink
so much that it becomes difficult to open the mouth widely; movement
of the fingers is hampered and they may develop contractures. The condition
is very similar to the toxic oil syndrome, which affected 20,000 people
in Madrid in 1981.
The skin manifestations
are part of a general systemic disturbance that affects the connective tissue
of the joints, intestine, lungs, and kidneys, and may affect the heart. The cause of the disease is not known
with certainty, but it is thought to be an immunological disorder.
Scleroderma affects four times
as many women as men, and usually occurs
in women in their
40s and 50s. Persons
with a mild form of the disease have a slow progression of symptoms and a more favorable prognosis. Those with a more severe case will have widespread disease
with internal involvement of the heart, lungs, and kidneys, which can cause
There is no known cure for this disease, but steroids
may bring some relief.