Putting the two Greek words sclero (meaning hard) and derma (meaning skin) together paints a picture of the condition known as scleroderma. In this condition, the skin becomes thicker and harder.
Scleroderma belongs to the same family of autoimmune diseases as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It shares many features with these illnesses, including the fact that it often appears in adult women. Scleroderma is more common in women than men.
Another thing it has in common with these diseases is that it can cause a wide range of different symptoms and complications. For some people, it's a lifelong nuisance; for others, it's a disease that quickly worsens and may lead to death. This disease is not contagious, and it is not inherited.
About 16,000 Canadians live with scleroderma. It can affect a specific area of the body, usually the skin (called localized scleroderma). It may also affect several areas of the body, including internal organs (called systemic or generalized scleroderma).
Two forms of localized scleroderma are morphea and linear sclerodoma. They usually affect only the skin, but may also affect muscles and bones.
Generalized or systemic scleroderma also has two forms: limited (or CREST syndrome) sclerodoma and diffuse sclerodoma.
Most people with scleroderma develop the condition between the ages of 30 and 50 years, although it may occur in children and seniors.