Topic Overview

Scleroderma is a rare disease in which a person's immune system begins to destroy normal, healthy tissues. (This is called an 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. This happens because the valve between the esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) does not close tightly.
  • Harder to move stomach juices out of the esophagus. This happens because the squeezing motion of the esophagus (peristalsis) does not work as well as it should.

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

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology

Current as ofOctober 10, 2017