Systemic scleroderma often affects the hands. The initial stage is swelling (edema), which can last for weeks, months, or years. Often the swelling is intermittent and worse in the morning. It can cause the fingers to look like sausages, with far fewer wrinkles. Skin tightness in the hands can make it impossible to pinch the skin on the fingers.
In some people, the fingers eventually begin to harden from fibrosis, and curl inward. They may then become frozen in this clawed position, which is referred to as "sclerodactyly."
Sclerodactyly begins with swollen fingers and/or toes, which are often so swollen that it becomes difficult to bend them. This phase is then sometimes followed by skin thickening, and then skin hardening. It can eventually lead to hands that are stiffened into a claw, and immovable. ISN.
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