Your doctor may be able to diagnose scleroderma by taking a careful history of your symptoms and doing a thorough physical examination. Your doctor will look for classic skin changes associated with scleroderma. These include calcium deposits under the skin and changes in the tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, at the base of your fingernails. The skin changes of scleroderma are often characteristic enough to allow your doctor to accurately diagnose the condition. Other examination and testing may be done to look for organ involvement.

  • Localized scleroderma may be diagnosed when the disease affects only the skin in isolated parts of the body
  • Systemic sclerosis may be diagnosed when the disease involves Raynaud’s phenomenon and affects widespread areas of skin and/or internal organs.
  • There are no specific tests that can completely confirm or eliminate the possibility of scleroderma.

    If there are any questions, your doctor may recommend other tests to confirm the diagnosis or to evaluate how severely your internal organs are involved.

    Such tests may include:

    Blood Tests

    A number of blood tests can point towards the presence of scleroderma. These include:

  • C-reactive protein
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Antinuclear antibody
  • Antitopoisomerase I antibodies (anti-Scl 70)
  • Anticentromere antibody
  • Antimitochondrial antibodies
  • Imaging Tests

    These tests can visualize the internal organs to see how the disease has affected them. Specific areas of the body to be examined with imaging tests may be chosen based on your symptoms. Imaging tests include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • Nailfold capillaroscopy
  • Skin Biopsy

    A skin biopsy involves removing a small sample of skin and examining it in a lab for specific characteristics that suggest scleroderma.

    Organ Specific Tests

    Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order tests of other organs to see if they are involved in the disease process. These tests may include:

  • X-rays of joints
  • Barium swallow or endoscopy to examine the gastrointestinal system
  • Chest x-ray, pulmonary function tests, lung scans, or biopsy of lung tissue
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, or cardiac catheterization
  • Kidney biopsy