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Can Scleroderma Affect The Brain?

Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disorder, which affects different patients in different ways. The disease is associated with the immune system, and it is neither contagious nor cancerous. This health problem manifests itself in various ways, especially by thickening and hardening of the skin. The intensity of scleroderma can range from mild to life-threatening and greatly depends on what organs have been affected. The diagnosis of this condition is often troublesome as the symptoms relate to other autoimmune disorders. A dermatologist and rheumatologist are the best qualified medical practitioners, who can properly diagnose the illness and offer the best treatment.

Can Scleroderma Affect The Brain?

Can Scleroderma Affect The Brain?

So what is the relationship between scleroderma and the brain? Localized scleroderma is not commonly associated with the brain; however, the linear form may affect the organ in one way or the other. Linear scleroderma has particularly been linked to progressive brain lesions, epilepsy, migraine headaches and neurological symptoms, to name but a few. For systemic diffuse scleroderma, there has been a great brain involvement where it causes cerebral problems. These problems include cognitive impairment and poor circulation in the brain. The kind of impact that the brain experiences from scleroderma has been traced back to anxiety and depression from the condition and medications used in its treatment. Studies also show that scleroderma can cause brain matter disease, which affects nerves that connect different areas of the brain and spinal cord.

The exact trigger of scleroderma is unknown, but what we know is that the immune system triggers body cells to produce collagen. Collagen is a protein that is released whenever your skin has suffered an injury. The cells produce too much collagen, which then deposits on the skin and other organs as well, resulting in thickening and hardening. There are two types of scleroderma, namely localized and systemic scleroderma. Localized scleroderma is a milder version of systemic scleroderma.

Localized scleroderma only affects the human skin in different areas such as the scalp, legs, chest, face, and hands. It is characterized by red patches on the skin which progress into white ones with purple borders. This type of scleroderma has further been categorized into morphea and linear scleroderma. It is most common among young children. Systemic scleroderma affects a human’s internal organs such as kidneys, stomach, brain, lungs, and heart. Types of systemic scleroderma are diffuse and limited sclerodermas. Limited scleroderma is also known as CREST syndrome that involves Calcinosis, Raynaud’s phenomena, esophageal dysfunction, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia. The diffuse scleroderma is the form associated with the implication of other body organs apart from the skin.

Treatment of Scleroderma

Different patients suffering from scleroderma will need different treatments. Although, there is no cure for scleroderma, there are many treatments that can improve the condition. In cases where other organs are affected, you would have to visit a specialist for treatment of the underlying problem. Also, any medication that can slow down the activity of the immune system can be administered, to inhibit the excessive formation of collagen, which causes scleroderma. In mild cases of scleroderma, treatment is not necessary, as the illnesses goes away on its own. But, it is better to be safe than sorry, and seek medical care to prevent further progression of the disease into a life-threatening situation.


Scleroderma can have a grave implication in a patient’s overall health. It is therefore important that when diagnosed with scleroderma, you are also aware of the type you are suffering from. While localized scleroderma is less severe than systemic scleroderma, there is still need to get treatment and manage it. The brain plays a huge role in the human anatomy, so any threat that is posed to the organ can affect the entire human body and its organs. Some of the major brain problems that have been associated with systemic scleroderma include memory loss and brain fogginess. Other than that, it is unlikely that it can cause permanent brain damage. So, whenever you visit your physician, make sure that you know the risks associated with scleroderma and how to fight it.


  1. Title: “Neurological Manifestations of Systemic Sclerosis: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Authors: Khanna D, Gladue H, Channick R, et al. Journal: Current Treatment Options in Rheumatology. 2016 Dec;2(4):317-327. DOI: 10.1007/s40674-016-0056-3 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27818756/
  2. Title: “Central nervous system involvement in systemic sclerosis: A systemic review.” Authors: Lachenal F, Dournes G, Taillé C, et al. Journal: Autoimmunity Reviews. 2019 Nov;18(11):102396. DOI: 10.1016/j.autrev.2019.102396 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31550564/
  3. Title: “Neurologic Manifestations of Rheumatologic Diseases.” Authors: Medina-Rodriguez G, Murray SG. Journal: Neurologic Clinics. 2020 Feb;38(1):175-191. DOI: 10.1016/j.ncl.2019.09.006 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31757297/
  4. Title: “Cognitive Impairment in Patients with Systemic Sclerosis: A Systematic Review.” Authors: Moraes DA, Gruber B, Salgado MDS, et al. Journal: Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2018 Jul;70(7):1152-1164. DOI: 10.1002/art.40423 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29481773/
  5. Title: “Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) and the brain.” Authors: Stefanidi K, Cardozo AK. Journal: Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 2014 Nov;26(6):646-651. DOI: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000117 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25177977/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 7, 2023

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