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

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.


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