Skin Viscoelasticity in Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma)

Author: Jo Frowde. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
Early Diagnosis of SSc


large colorful clownSkin is the largest organ in our body. It protects us from environmental factors, like sunshine and chemicals.

It is like elastic, in that it stretches and then snaps back to its original shape and size, which is called viscoelasticity.

Sometimes our skin loses its elasticity. This is usually caused by either dehydration, swelling, or disease. Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) is one of the diseases that can reduce the skin's ability to stretch, even before it causes noticeable skin hardening or tightening.

Therefore, detecting subtle changes in reduced skin viscoelasticity can help diagnose scleroderma at an earlier stage. (Also see What is Scleroderma?, Skin Fibrosis, and Sclerodactyly)

Measurement of Skin Viscoelasticity

Skin viscoelasticity: physiologic mechanisms, measurement issues, and application to nursing science. The Cutometer® is an option for measuring viscoelasticity in clinical and bench research protocols. PubMed, Biol Res Nurs, 2013 Jul;15(3):338-46.

Use of Cutometer area parameters in evaluating age-related changes in the skin elasticity of the cheek. F3 parameters derived from multiple suctions appear to be more suitable than R parameters for evaluating the elasticity of cheek skin. PubMed, Skin Res Technol, 2013 Feb;19(1):e238-42.

A new device for assessing changes in skin viscoelasticity using indentation and optical measurement. This device can track the viscoelastic response of skin to minimal indentation. The high precision achieved using low-cost materials means that the device could be a viable alternative to current technologies. PubMed, Skin Res Technol, 2010 May;16(2):210-28.

Early Diagnoses of Systemic Sclerosis

The Increased Skin Viscoelasticity - A Possible New Fifth Sign for the Very Early Diagnosis of Systemic Sclerosis. In combination with nailfold videocapillaroscopy, the increased skin viscoelasticity parameter could be proposed as the possible new fifth sign for the very early diagnosis of SSc. Current Rheumatology Reviews, 08/06/2014. (Also see Diagnosis of Skin Fibrosis)


An overview of Elastography—An emerging branch of Medical Imaging. The viscoelastic material properties of soft tissue can be characterized using elasticity imaging methods. The future for this imaging modality holds great potential for many different applications to assist in detection of disease and improving patient outcomes. Curr Med Imaging Rev, Nov 2011; 7(4): 255-282.

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