Who’s At Risk for Scleroderma?

Who’s At Risk for Scleroderma?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects 300,000 people of all ages and backgrounds in the United States. It affects each person differently, which can make scleroderma challenging to diagnose and treat. And while the exact cause is unknown, research is advancing at a rapid pace.

When you have an autoimmune disease, you need comprehensive care from an expert in inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. At Valerius Medical Group & Research Center in Los Alamitos, California, board-certified rheumatology specialists Nathaniel Neal, MD, and Rebekah Neal-Kraal, MD, are backed by decades of experience in diagnosing and managing autoimmune disorders, such as scleroderma.

The providers at Valerius Medical Group & Research Center combine traditional treatments with innovative therapies to bring patients the most effective relief. In this post, they raise awareness about some of the risk factors for scleroderma.

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a rheumatic and connective tissue disease. In patients with scleroderma, the body produces too much collagen, a structural protein that provides the foundation for your skin and other connective tissues, such as your tendons and cartilage.

The excess collagen in the skin causes patches of tight, hard, inflamed skin. Scleroderma may also affect your organs, digestive tract, and blood vessels.

Scleroderma is divided into two primary types:

Systemic scleroderma is more severe and requires careful management. 

Risk factors for scleroderma

Scleroderma is complex. Despite research into the roles of various factors, scleroderma is still considered idiopathic, which means we don’t yet understand what causes it. However, there are some risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it. These risk factors include the following:

Family history

Having a close family member with scleroderma increases your risk of developing it, too. Researchers have not yet identified the exact genes linked to this increased risk.


Long-term exposure to silica dust is a risk factor for developing scleroderma. Silica dust is made up of small particles that can include stone, brick, concrete, or sand.

Individuals who work with these materials, typically in construction, are exposed to silica dust. Brick masons, sandblasters, rock drillers, and tile installers are examples of occupations where exposure to silica dust is a concern.

There is conflicting data regarding the impact of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.

Having another autoimmune disease

Having one autoimmune disease increases the chances of developing another. People with systemic lupus, for example, are more likely to develop scleroderma. Keep in mind that if you have lupus, it doesn’t mean you’ll develop scleroderma. While both lupus and scleroderma are more common in women, scleroderma is rarer than lupus.

Treating scleroderma

Treatment depends on your symptoms and the type of scleroderma you’re diagnosed with. There isn’t a single treatment that works for everyone with scleroderma. Instead, we work with you to find the right combination of therapies to manage your symptoms and reduce complications. Your treatment may include:

Our approach is to tailor treatment to your specific needs. This may involve trying out newer or experimental treatments. Every patient is unique, and our approach reflects this. 

You can rely on the experts at Valerius Medical Group & Research Center to provide the most advanced rheumatology care possible. To learn more about how to treat scleroderma, call 562-294-6533 to book an appointment online today.

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