Localised Scleroderma factsheet


Localised scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that affects the appearance and thickness of the skin. 

Autoimmune conditions cause the immune system to get confused and attack its own body instead of fighting off illness and infections. In localised scleroderma, inflammation causes the skin to become thick, hard, and discoloured. This can affect the way skin looks and moves.

Localised scleroderma tends to affect girls more than boys. It cannot be caught from other people and is not passed down in families.

 Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of localised scleroderma can start slowly and are usually lesions or marks on the skin that are:

  • a white, red or purple colour
  • lines, streaks or round
  • waxy or shiny
  • hard to touch.

Patches of hard skin can cause discomfort and issues with being able to move the joints well.


Your local doctor will refer your child to a specialist doctor called a rheumatologist for diagnosis and management of localised scleroderma. 

A rheumatologist looks after the joints and muscles.

There is no one test to diagnose localised scleroderma. Your child's doctor will:

  • physically check the skin
  • check that symptoms are not caused by any other health issues
  • order a biopsy – where a sample of the skin is taken and tested.


Treatment of localised scleroderma aims to:

  • bring the inflammation under control as quickly as possible
  • prevent it from spreading
  • improve movement and flexibility in joints that are affected by hardened skin.

Treatment can involve medications to control the inflammation, and steroid creams for the skin.

Your child’s doctor will discuss with you the different treatments, and what will work best for your child.

Your child may also see a physiotherapist or occupational therapist to help them with:

  • growth issues
  • joint movement and flexibility
  • muscle weakness
  • relaxing tight or hard areas of skin.
Last updated Wednesday 17th April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024