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Scleroderma literally means "hard skin," which is a finding common to a group of diseases that involves the abnormal growth of connective tissue. Scleroderma has come to be the term used for many of these related diseases. They fall into two main categories: localized scleroderma, which affects limited parts of the body, and systemic sclerosis, which can affect many areas of the body. While this classification is helpful in evaluating patients with these disorders, this condition has a broad spectrum of disease.
Localized scleroderma may only involve the skin, the tissues beneath the skin and sometimes the muscle below, but the internal organs are generally spared. Localized scleroderma often will remain limited and not progress to the systemic form. Localized scleroderma is often classified as morphea and linear.
Systemic sclerosis can affect the skin, the tissues beneath the skin, muscles, blood vessels and internal organs. It is often divided into diffuse and limited disease.
Diffuse systemic sclerosis is a rare disease that can be severe and sometimes life-threatening. Proper medical care and close follow-up by your doctor and treatments will often benefit patients with systemic sclerosis and hopefully work to prevent organ damage.