CREST syndrome causes skin to harden and makes joints stiff and swollen. It is a type of limited scleroderma.

Scleroderma is a disease that can seriously affect many parts of the body. CREST is a more limited form of scleroderma that doesn't affect the skin as severely.

Each letter in "CREST" stands for a medical term describing part of the disease. People with CREST have at least two of these problems:

  • Calcinosis: This causes calcium deposits—hard bumps on the skin that can be tender and cause stiff joints.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon: This causes blood vessels in fingers and toes to tighten, severely limiting the flow of blood to the skin. It makes fingers and toes feel numb and tingly. Sometimes they become painful and swollen.
  • Esophagus problems: The esophagus is the tube in the throat that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. CREST can affect the muscles in this tube, and this can cause heartburn. It can also make it harder to swallow.
  • Sclerodactyly: This causes the skin on fingers—and sometimes toes—to get so tight that they curl and are hard to move.
  • Telangiectasia: This causes blood vessels just under the skin to dilate, or get wider. Small red spots or red lines appear on the face and neck.

Current as of: September 9, 2014

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology