Common Medical Tests for Scleroderma

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
These are commonly used for diagnosing or treating symptoms of Systemic Scleroderma
Antibodies/Blood Tests Tests/Antibodies
Cardiac (Heart)
Imaging (CT, MRI)
Pulmonary (Lung)
Skin Viscoelasticity
Medical Records & References

Antibodies and Blood Tests

Antibody Tests. ISN.

Antibody Tests for Scleroderma. ISN.

Lab Tests Online. A public resource for clinical lab tests. Search for a specific test and learn more about it. Lab Tests Online.

Early systemic sclerosis-opportunities for treatment. The early diagnosis of SSc, before the development of fibrosis in internal organs, will allow the introduction of immunosuppressive medications in these patients in a controlled setting. PubMed, Clin Rheumatol, 02/26/2015. (Also see What is Scleroderma? and Difficult Diagnosis)

Early systemic sclerosis (SSc): Analysis of the disease course in patients with marker autoantibody or capillaroscopic positivity or both. The data demonstrate faster progression of SSc in autoantibody–positive patients, particularly in those with preclinical internal organ involvement at baseline, than in autoantibody–negative patients. PubMed, Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken), 2014 Feb 10. (Also see Scleroderma Autoantibodies)


Microscope by Shelley EnszHowever, very few doctors know how to do a nailfold exam! Viewing the nailfolds with special instruments can disclose certain abnormalities of the small blood vessels, and specific findings can be very useful in diagnosing, classifying and staging forms of systemic scleroderma.

Unfortunately, in the U.S. such testing is frequently not covered by insurance companies, so there is widespread reluctance to do nailfold testing -- even though it is a very quick, easy, noninvasive, and economical way to diagnose and classify systemic forms of scleroderma.

There are occasional patients with changes visible to naked eye. Unfortunately, many doctors mistake prominent venular system (not signficant) with these changes. About 95% of patients need a nailfold exam with magnifying glass or ophthalmoscope on high diopter with oil or KY jelly on the nailbed to assess properly. However, very few doctors do this or even know how. (Also see What is Scleroderma? and Symptoms of Scleroderma)

Cuticles: Periungual Erythema
Fingernail Abnormalities
Causes of Fingernail Symptoms and Abnormalities
Lack of Fingerprints
Manicure Safety
Nail Biting
Nailfold Capillaroscopy

Cardiac (Heart)

Heart Disease Tests and Diagnosis. The tests you'll need to diagnose your heart disease depend on what condition your doctor thinks you might have. Mayo Clinic.

Cardiology Tests and Procedures Dozens of cardiac tests clearly explained, including Cardiac Catheterization, Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, Surgery (CABG), Dobutamine Stress Test, Echocardiogram (ECHO), Electrocardiogram (EKG), Electrophysiology Study (EPS), Heart Valve Disorders, Holter Monitoring, Nuclear Medicine Treadmill, Stress Tests (Cardiolite or Thallium), Nuclear Medicine IV Persantine, Stress Test (IVP), Pacemakers, Percutaneous Transluminal, Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA), Signal-Averaged Electrocardiogram, (SAEKG), Stents, Stress Echocardiogram, Transesophageal Echocardiogram, (TEE), and Treadmill Stress Test. Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram (Also called an echo) is a type of ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves that are sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off the different parts of your heart. These echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a video screen. WebMD.

Electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. WebMD.

Stress Echocardiography. Stress echocardiography is a test that uses ultrasound imaging to show how well your heart muscles are working to pump blood to your body. It is mainly used to detect a decrease in blood flow to the heart. MedLine Plus.

Q&A: Contrast for Stress Echo. When is contrast used? What are the FDA warnings and contraindications? Cardiovascular Business.

What Are Holter and Event Monitors? Holter and event monitors are medical devices that record the heart's electrical activity. They are similar to an EKG, both instead of recording the heart's electrical activity for a few second, they record the electrical activity over several days. National Heart Blood and Lung Institute.


Gastrointestinal Scleroderma Imaging. Gastrointestinal scleroderma is the third most common manifestation of scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis (SSc), after skin changes and Raynaud phenomenon. Scleroderma can cause progressive atrophy and collagenous fibrous replacement of the muscularis, which may affect any part or all of the gastrointestinal tract but is more prominent in the esophagus. Medscape. (Also see GI Involvement)

Esophageal Dilation Esophageal dilatation is the technique used to stretch or open the blocked portion of the esophagus. Jackson Gastroenterology


Electromyography (EMG): What Is It, and Does It Hurt? So let's get down to the particulars. An electromyography test involves needles. The needles do puncture the skin. Moreover, they enter muscle tissue. But the testing is done with just one needle at a time and just one muscle at a time. Gary E Cordingley, MD, PhD.

Dubious Diagnostic Tests Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Scleroderma: Health Services Utilization from Patients' Perspective. Less than half of patients were diagnosed by a rheumatologist and time to diagnosis from onset of symptoms has remained unchanged over the last 3 decades. Despite their complex, multisystemic disease, less than 50% of patients see sub-specialists or had baseline screening tests for organ involvement of their systemic sclerosis. J Rheumatol 2006 June;33:1123–7. (Also see Difficult Diagnosis)

Imaging (CT, MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of your head and body. Your doctor uses these detailed, clear images to identify and diagnose a wide range of conditions. Mayo Clinic.


The Drug Information Search Page The Detroit Medical Center

Medications For others, see the symptoms pages. ISN.

Pulmonary (Lung)

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT) A test designed to measure how well the lungs are working. MedicineNet.

Pulmonary Function Tests. Pulmonary function tests are tests performed to make measurements of how your lungs and airways function. Results from pulmonary function tests enable your physician to evaluate your breathing, make diagnosis, recommend treatment and follow your progress. This article tells you how to prepare for the test and how it is conducted. National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

Pulmonary Function Testing. Provides information on equipment, procedure and interpretation of pulmonary function tests. Thomas R. Gildea. Cleveland Clinic.

Pulmonary ventilation/perfusion scan. This involves two nuclear scan tests to measure breathing (ventilation) and circulation (perfusion) in all areas of the lungs. Medline Plus

Pictorial review of intrathoracic manifestations of progressive systemic sclerosis. Intra-thoracic manifestations of PSS are not well known. The study illustrates the whole spectrum of intrathoracic manifestations of PSS and aims to familiarize the physician and radiologist with these features. Annals of Thoractic Medicine, 4 Sept 2014.

Thoracentesis Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lining of the outside of the lungs (pleura) and the wall of the chest. Normally, very little fluid is present in this space. An accumulation of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura is called a pleural effusion. Medline (Also see Pleural Effusion)

Skin Viscoelasticity

Novel Ideas: 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)

Medical Records & References

Medical Tests & Tools: A to Z. WebMD.

Go to Medical Tests: Scleroderma Antibodies

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