What is scleroderma? Scleroderma is a connective tissue disease characterized by abnormal production of collagen, a fiber-like protein. Collagen is a necessary component of connective tissue, but too much collagen overwhelms the tissues, causing them to harden and tighten, resulting in inflammation, damage and dysfunction of skin, bones, muscles, and other body organs. Scleroderma is thought to be caused by an abnormal immune system response (Source: PubMedHealth). The symptoms of scleroderma usually develop slowly, possibly over weeks or several months, although certain forms may appear suddenly. It most commonly affects the skin, causing it to tighten and harden. It can also cause pain in the musculoskeletal system. Heart, lung, kidney, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems can be affected, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Left untreated, scleroderma results in gradual damage and eventual organ failure. The most common treatments for scleroderma are medications that are designed to increase circulation to the body’s organs and suppress the immune system’s response. Supportive therapies include pain medications and physical therapy. Scleroderma may take several forms and may be present with features of other connective tissue diseases. Among ethnic groups, the highest prevalence of scleroderma is found in Choctaw Native Americans who are in Oklahoma. They are 20 times more likely to develop scleroderma than other ethnic groups. Scleroderma is also more common in African American populations than European Americans. Scleroderma is most commonly developed between the ages of 30 and 50 (Source: PubMedHealth). Scleroderma may cause serious symptoms.Seek immediate medical care (call 911)if you experience the inability to swallow, eat or drink; difficulty breathing; or absent pulses in the hands or feet. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for scleroderma but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.