We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Progressive Systemic Sclerosis?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Progressive systemic sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that causes problems with the skin, joints, and internal organs. The defining characteristic of the disease is an overproduction of collagen, a type of connective tissue, in the body. When there is too much collagen, areas of the skin thicken and harden, joints become less mobile, and vital blood vessels are damaged. People who have this condition may experience a variety of symptoms that gradually worsen over time, possibly leading to permanent disability or life-threatening heart and lung conditions. Medications and physical therapy help many patients find some relief from their symptoms, but there is currently no known cure for the disorder.

The causes of progressive systemic sclerosis are not fully understood. Genetic factors are suspected to play a role, but no clear genetic link has been discovered. Long-term exposure to environmental toxins, such as silica dust, pesticides, and epoxy glues, is a common finding among patients. The disease occurs most frequently in adult women around the age of 40.

In many cases, skin changes are the first noticeable symptoms of progressive systemic sclerosis. Blood vessel constriction in the fingers and toes can cause them to turn blue and lose feeling when exposed to even moderate cold, a condition called Raynaud phenomenon. The skin on fingers and toes can also become very thick, and nails may turn fragile and break away. Excess calcium and collagen in finger joints might cause the digits to bend awkwardly and lose dexterity as well. Itchy patches of skin and ulcers on the legs are also common.

The disease can also cause pain and stiffness in major joints such as the knees, elbows, and hips. Digestive problems are common, such as heartburn, frequent nausea, and vomiting. If blood vessels in the lungs are damaged and scarred, a person may have trouble breathing and develop very high blood pressure. Heart failure also is possible if the disease causes inflammation and tissue hardening around the organ.

A team of doctors, including dermatologists and internists, are usually involved in making a diagnosis of progressive systemic sclerosis. Physical exams that reveal major skin changes generally provide the first clues that the disorder exists. X-rays and other diagnostic imaging scans are helpful in revealing the presence of excess collagen and gauging the extent of damage to blood vessels and internal organs. Blood samples also are tested to confirm the presence of abnormal antibodies and other characteristic signs of sclerosis.

Treatment for progressive systemic sclerosis is highly individualized and geared toward improving each patient's particular symptoms. Skin problems are usually treated with topical corticosteroids and moisturizers. Patients with Raynaud phenomenon may need to avoid venturing outside during very hot or cold weather to prevent complications. Oral steroids are often given for joint problems, and blood pressure stabilizers, heartburn medicines, and bronchodilators can help with other symptoms. Regular exercise or guided physical therapy is important to remain mobile and independent in the later stages of the disease.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.