Scleroderma is a chronic, often progressive, autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own body. The disease, which literally means "hard skin," can cause a thickening and tightening of the skin. In some cases it causes serious damage to internal organs including the lungs, heart, kidneys, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract. Some medicines and treatments can help with certain symptoms, but there is still no cure for scleroderma, which affects about 300,000 nationwide. (By way of comparison, about 50,000 people have muscular dystrophy, 250,000 are estimated to have lupus and 350,000 have multiple sclerosis.)
Systemic sclerosis is an autoimmune disease associated with inflammation and fibrosis, or scarring, that affects organs including the skin, heart, kidney and lungs.