What causes scleroderma?
Although the exact cause or causes of scleroderma are unknown, studies have provided insight into factors that regulate disease susceptibility and clinical course. Susceptibility appears to be controlled by a complex interaction between environmental encounters and genetic and non-genetic host factors. The clinical course is influenced by genetic factors.
It is also known that the disease process in scleroderma involves an over-production of collagen.
The disease process leading to scleroderma appears to occur as an autoimmune response, in which a defective immune system attacks or sets conditions that damage the body itself. In scleroderma, this response produces inflammation and an overproduction of collagen, the tough fibrous protein that helps construct connective tissues, such as tendons, bones, and ligaments as well as scar tissue. Most likely this disease process is regulated by a number of genetic defects with environmental factors playing the role of trigger.
Most persons with scleroderma do not have any relatives with scleroderma, nor do their children. Research indicates there is a "susceptibility gene" which raises the likelihood of getting scleroderma, but does not cause scleroderma by itself.
It appears to be that scleroderma begins with the immune system, which normally protects the body from germs, viruses, and bacteria. It generates antibodies that attack healthy tissue in different parts of the body. This response produces inflammation and an overproduction of collagen - the tough fibrous protein that helps construct connective tissues, such as tendons, bones, and ligaments as well as scar tissue. This excess collagen is deposited in the skin and body organs. What triggers this process is unknown. Scleroderma may be associated with exposure to, and high build-up in the body of, certain chemicals or heavy metals.