Scleroderma is a chronic skin disease that can lead to hard, tightened skin. For those with scleroderma, the immune system begins to damage normal, healthy body tissue. As a result, scar tissue may form in the lungs, skin, and other organs.

Find more information on scleroderma and lung transplantation.

Nearly 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with scleroderma. There is no cure for this condition, but treatment options are available.

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Types of Scleroderma

There are two types of scleroderma, localized and systemic.

    • Localized scleroderma impacts the skin and rarely spreads to other areas of the body, preventing other organs from being infected.
    • Systemic scleroderma is more serious and can harm the connective tissue in many parts of the body, including the:
      • Skin
      • Esophagus
      • Stomach and bowels
      • Lungs
      • Kidneys
      • Heart
      • Other internal organs

Scleroderma Symptoms

Symptoms of scleroderma can vary from person to person and depend on the part of the body that is infected. The most common symptoms include:

      • Hard or thickened skin
      • Red patches or sores on the face, arms, and chest
      • Painful joints
      • Muscle weakness
      • Heartburn
      • Shortness of breath

While some symptoms of scleroderma can be relatively mild, more serious complications may develop. Scleroderma can cause organ damage and can lead to the need for an organ transplant.

Complications of Scleroderma

The two most dangerous conditions that result from scleroderma are pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Both disorders affect the lungs and can be life-threatening.

      • Pulmonary Fibrosis is a disease that causes scarring or stiffening of the lungs and makes everyday activities difficult. Symptoms include shortness of breath, weight loss, and fatigue.
      • Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a condition that causes high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. This can lead to difficulty breathing and can also cause the right side of the heart to fail.

Lung Transplant for Scleroderma

Once patients with scleroderma develop these conditions, a lung transplant can be a life-saving solution.

During a lung transplant, the damaged lung is removed and replaced with a healthy donor lung. While a lung transplant does not cure scleroderma, as patients may still suffer from a variety of symptoms, their lung function is restored.

Although lung transplantation for patients with scleroderma is rare, it can be life-changing and can help treat the most serious complications that develop as a result of the disease.

It is important for scleroderma patients to remain hopeful during treatment. Stay positive and work with your doctor to investigate whether a lung transplant is the best treatment option for you.


About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to