Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease whose symptoms typically include some or all of the following: sensitivity to cold in extremities, thickening of the skin, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, joint stiffness and pain, and damage to internal organs.
Autoimmune diseases, which affect more than 50 million Americans, are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
300,000 cases of scleroderma are estimated in the United States. 80% of scleroderma patients are female. Scleroderma typically strikes between the ages of 25 and 55. 95% of scleroderma cases begin with Raynaud Phenomenon (hands and feet abnormally sensitive to cold.) Federal research funding for scleroderma lags behind other diseases of similar prevalence. Misdiagnosis is common. It can take three years or more for an individual to be diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment, often due to lack of familiarity with the disease among medical professionals.