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As one of the nation’s leading rheumatology centers, Duke specializes in diagnosing and treating scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to become thick and rigid. It may affect other vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys, gut, and heart. Our experienced rheumatologists have dedicated their lives to researching the causes of this rare condition and testing new therapies to improve your condition and help restore your quality of life.

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Your team of doctors will develop a treatment plan for you based on the severity of your condition and its effects on your body’s organs and tissues. Treatments focus on managing the varied symptoms of the disease and may include:

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

These reduce inflammation, decrease skin thickening, and relieve muscle pain and weakness.


Calcium channel blockers and phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors are medications that open narrowed blood vessels to improve circulation.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

These medications decrease stomach acid to improve swallowing function and decrease abdominal pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can improve your flexibility and joint function.

Stem Cell or Bone Marrow Transplant

We are one of the few centers in the U.S. using stem cell transplantation as part of treatment for scleroderma (systemic sclerosis).

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Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Scleroderma can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. Your evaluation will begin with a review of your medical history and a comprehensive physical exam. Scleroderma may spread throughout the body, causing the formation of scar tissue that can damage vital organs. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, your doctor may order the following tests to determine the severity of your condition:

Blood Tests

Your doctor may order blood tests to check for antibodies and signs of inflammation.


This ultrasound test of your heart function can help determine if scleroderma is affecting your heart.

Pulmonary Function Tests

Tests that measure how well your lungs are working can help determine whether the disease has affected your lungs.

Endoscopic Evaluation

A small tube equipped with a camera is inserted down your throat. This allows your doctor to view your esophagus and intestines to determine if they have been affected by scleroderma.


This test measures the strength of your swallowing muscles to determine if they have been affected by scleroderma.

Nailfold Capillaroscopy

A microscope is used to examine the blood vessels under your fingernail for signs of scleroderma.

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Comprehensive Care for Scleroderma

Personalized Care
If you have scleroderma, you need a health care team that’s skilled in diagnosing your disease and managing its effects. Our rheumatologists partner with specialists throughout Duke to develop a treatment plan that meets your individual needs and offers the best options for improving your quality of life.

A Team Approach
Scleroderma affects the skin and other tissues and organs throughout the body, including the lungs, nerves, and skin. Our physicians work closely with Duke psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, physical therapists, orthopaedic surgeons, dermatologists, and pulmonologists. Together, we develop the most appropriate care plan for you.

An Active Research Program
You may be eligible to participate in our ongoing clinical trials that test new therapies for scleroderma. Our ongoing studies help us better understand the cause of scleroderma and uncover the most effective techniques for managing the disease.


Best Hospital for Rheumatology in NC
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital’s rheumatology program is ranked among the very best in the U.S., and best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

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