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Scleroderma

Topic Overview

Scleroderma is a rare disease in which a person's immune system begins to destroy normal, healthy tissues (autoimmune disease). As a result, connective tissue of the skin, lungs, and internal organs—especially the esophagus, kidneys, and digestive tract—is replaced with scar tissue. This change causes the tissues to become stiff and the muscles to not work as well.

In the esophagus, this makes it:

  • Easier for stomach juice to get into the esophagus, because the valve between the esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) does not close tightly.
  • Harder to move stomach juices out of the esophagus because the squeezing motion of the esophagus (peristalsis) does not work as strongly.

CREST syndrome is a limited type of scleroderma that can also affect the esophagus.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised March 6, 2012

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