*What Does It Mean?

Many words are used in medical text books and dictionaries which may sound frightening. It helps if patients understand what they mean. Below are some of the commonly used medical terms relevant to Raynaud's, Sjogrens and Scleroderma.


†Acid reflux, heartburn. Stomach acid which abnormally travels up into and irritates the oesophagus. (Acid production is a normal part of digestion in the stomach.) Heartburn refers to pain in the centre of the chest caused by acid reflux. (See Oesophagitis.) *The return of stomach acid and food to the mouth.

*Acute. Sudden, severe and of short duration

*Aetiology. dealing with the cause of the disease.

*Alveolitis. Inflammation of the lung. An important complication of scleroderma which can lead to lung scarring (fibrosis).

†Analgesic. A medication which reduces or eliminates pain. Example: paracetamol, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

*Angiography. A specialised x-ray technique showing blood vessel

†Antibiotic. Medication used to treat an infection. Each antibiotic kills or inhibits the growth of specific micro-organisms, so antibiotics are prescribed based on the type of infection present.

*Antibody.  A protein produced by the body's immune system in defence against

infection and other 'foreign' invasion  

†Arthralgia. Pain in a joint.

*Arthritis. Inflammation in a joint. 

*Atrophy. The wasting away of a body part or tissue.

†Auto-immune. Disease or antibody which acts against the patient’s own tissues. (See Immune system.)

†Biofeedback. A technique used to regulate a body function usually involuntarily controlled, such as a finger temperature or pulse rate. By observing a machine monitoring the function, a person can practice relaxation techniques and learn to control the function. Later, the machine becomes unnecessary. (See Relaxation techniques.)

†Biopsy. The removal and examination of tissue, cells, or fluid from the body. * The removal of a small piece of tissue for examination under the microscope.

†Blanched. To become white or pale. In Raynaud’s phenomenon, the fingers and toes blanch due to insufficient circulation of blood.

*Bronchoscopy. An examination of the lining of the lungs using a small flexible telescope passed down the nose, usually performed under sedation. Sometimes fluid samples are taken to look for lung inflammation (lavage)

†Calcinosis. Abnormal accumulation of calcium in the skin

†Capillaries. The smallest blood vessels of the body, connecting arteries and veins.

*Capillaroscopy. Painless examination of the finger tips using a microscope to look for damage to the small blood vessels. 

*Chronic.  Persisting over a long period of time.  

†Collagen. A normal, fibrous protein found in the connective tissue of the body.  *A fibrous protein that 'binds' the body together. A component of connective tissue.

 †Connective tissue. Tissue which pervades, supports, and binds together other tissues including mucous, fibrous, reticular, adipose, cartilage, skin, and bone. Connective-tissue diseases are a group of diseases with similar cellular changes, but with the site where the changes occur determining the specific disease. Included are Scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

†Constrict (vessels), stricture (oesophagus). An abnormal narrowing.

†Contraction (of intestinal muscles). The rhythmic squeezing action of the muscles of the wall of the intestine which moves food through the system. Also called peristalsis. (See Motility.)

*Contracture. A permanent shortening of muscle or tendon, producing distortion or deformity.  

*Constrict. To make narrow.  

†Coronary arteries. Blood vessels which supply blood to the heart itself.

†CREST. Form of Scleroderma, whose initials stand for Calcinosis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, oEsophageal dysmotility, Sclerodactyly, and Telangiectasia. 

*CT scan. (of the lungs) a special X-ray scan to look for any inflammation or scarring in the lung tissue.  

†Cutaneous. Of the skin.

†Cyanosis. Blue or purple colour due to lack of blood oxygen. In Raynaud’s phenomenon, cyanosis of the fingers and toes may follow blanching.

*Dialysis. Treatment used in severe kidney involvement.

†Diffuse. Spreading, not confined to one area. 

†Digits. Fingers and toes.

†Dilate. (oesophagus, blood vessels). To widen or enlarge.

*DTPA scan. (Diethylene Triamine Penta-acetic acid) a special test of lung inflammation or damage which is used to detect and monitor alvolitis in scleroderma.

†Diuretic. Medication to increase the flow of urine, thereby decreasing fluid retention in the tissues. Also called “water tablets.” (See Oedema.)

†Dysfunction.  Impaired or abnormal functioning.

†Dysmotility. Motility.Contractions of the digestive-tract muscles occurring in rhythmic waves, propelling food, allowing absorption of nutrients, and elimination of wastes (faeces). Dysmotility indicates weakened or absent waves of contraction resulting in abnormally slow movement of food and faeces. (See Malabsorption, Gastrointestinal tract, Contraction.)                       †Dysphagia. Difficulty in swallowing.

*Echocardiogram. A painless, non-invasive test to take pictures of the heart and measure blood flow through the lungs.

*Electrocardiogram (ECG) a quick and completely painless electrical test to detect heart problems 

†En coup de sabre. A form of localized Scleroderma which forms a long crease of waxy skin, resembling a cut by a sabre or sword wound usually on face or neck.

*Endoscopy. A medical examination of the stomach using a flexible telescope (endoscope) which is swallowed, usually while under sedation

*Epidermis. The outer layer of the skin.

†Fatigue. Weariness, a sense of being overwhelmingly tired, or exhaustion.

*Erythema. Redness of the skin caused by blood vessel congestion. 

*Fibroblast. A cell in the skin and other organs which normally produces collagen and other tissue components which provide mechanical strength. Overactivity of fibroblasts occurs in scleroderma 

†Fibrosis. Abnormal formation of excess fibrous tissue. 

*Fibrosis. A thickening or hardening of tissue.

†Fibrous. Consisting of, or resembling fibres.

*Gangrene. Death of tissues due to restriction of oxygen and nutrients.

†Gastrointestinal tract, bowel, diarrhoea, constipation. The gastrointestinal tract is the digestive system which breaks down food, allows absorption of nutrients, removal of cellular waste products, and elimination of solid waste from the body. It begins with the mouth and oesophagus and leads to the stomach. The small intestine consists of the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Lastly, the large intestine (also called colon) leads to the rectum. The term bowel refers to the intestine. The anal sphincter is the muscle which controls discharge of stool. Diarrhoea is abnormally frequent or excessive passing of stool, usually watery. Constipation is the abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of stool, usually in a dry and hardened state. Normal bowel movements vary from person to person and with diet.

*Guttate Morphea. An uncommon form of scleroderma which is characterised by small, chalk-white spots appearing on the chest, neck and shoulders. Some or all of the spots may be surrounded by a violet margin.

*Hiatus hernia. A condition which may occur with oesophageal involvement. The stomach protrudes into the oesophagus because of weakened tissues

†Hypertension, anti-hypertensive. Abnormally high blood pressure. An 

anti-hypertensive medication lowers blood pressure.

 *Hypertension. High blood pressure. Severe forms may occur in scleroderma causing damage to the kidneys and other organs. 

 *Immune. Bearing a high resistance to disease.

†Immune System. The system of organs, cells, and proteins which protect the body from foreign substances by producing immune responses. The immune system organs include the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow. The cells include white cells, lymphocytes, T cells, and B cells. Immunoglobulins (antibodies) are proteins that can react with and/or neutralize corresponding proteins called antigens (usually damaged or foreign material). The immune system is essentially protective and helpful to the body, but can be the cause of disease and allergy when it attacks parts of the normal body in a process called auto-immunity.

*Immunology. The study of immunity and the body's defence mechanisms

*Impaction. A state of being firmly wedged.

*Induration. Hardness.

†Inflammation, anti-inflammatory. Tissue reaction to cell injury marked by redness, heat, pain, swelling, and often loss of function. Capillary dilation and white blood cell infiltration help eliminate foreign substances and damaged tissue, so normally, inflammation is a natural part of the healing process. Excessive or inappropriate inflammation can, however, cause further damage. Anti-inflammatory drugs. counteract inflammation.

*Infarction. Blood supply.

*Ischaemia.  Atrophy of tissue caused by impaired circulation

†Joint contracture, flexion contracture. Fixation of a joint in one position preventing full range of motion. In Scleroderma, frequently affecting the fingers, due to tightening and hardening of the skin around the joint. In flexion contractures, the fingers become fixed in a bent or flexed position.

†Lacrimal glands. Tear-producing glands, also spelled lachrymal.

†Laxative. A medication which stimulates emptying of the bowels.

*Lesion. A change in a part of the body caused by a disease or injury. 

*Linear. A form of localised scleroderma, usually a band-like thickening to one area such as an arm or leg.

†Lubrication. Secretion. Substance which makes a surface slippery or oily, either artificially by applying lubricating fluids or naturally by secreting fluids made by cells 

for this purpose. Example: tears.

*Lumen. The cavity of a blood vessel.

*Lung biopsy. An operation to remove a small piece (biopsy) of lung tissue to look for evidence of inflammation or scarring. Valuable in difficult cases to decide on the best treatment.

*Lung fibrosis. Scarring of the lung tissue. An important  complication of scleroderma often associated with inflammation of the lung (alveolitis - see above).

*Lupus. A rheumatic disease characterised by inflammation at various sites of the body e.g. skin, joints, pleurisy. Its full name is systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE for short.

†Malabsorption. The reduced ability to take nutrients from food into the cells of the body from the digestive tract.

†Microstomia. Abnormally small mouth opening.

†Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. Overlap or presence of symptoms of two or more diseases simultaneously. (See Collagen and Connective tissue.)

†Morphea. A form of localized Scleroderma.

†Motility. Dysmotility. Contractions of the digestive-tract muscles occurring in rhythmic waves, propelling food, allowing absorption of nutrients, and elimination of wastes (faeces). Dysmotility indicates weakened or absent waves of contraction resulting in abnormally slow movement of food and faeces. (See Malabsorption, Gastrointestinal tract, Contraction.)

†Occupational Therapy. Therapy using activity prescribed to promote recovery or rehabilitation. Often designed to increase ability to perform acts of daily living, such as grooming and eating, and concentrating on the hands and small muscle control. (Abbreviated “OT.” See also Physical Therapy.)

†Oedema. An abnormal excess accumulation of fluid in tissues or cavities of the body.

†Oesophagus, oesophagitis. The muscular swallowing tube connecting the mouth and the stomach. When properly functioning it contracts in smooth waves to send food to the stomach. At its lower end a sphincter (ring-like muscle) opens to allow food to pass into the stomach, but closes again to prevent stomach acid or partially digested food from backing up into the oesophagus. Oesophagitis is an inflammation or irritation of the oesophagus.

†Ophthalmic. Related to, or situated near the eye.

*Pathogenesis. Regarding the origin and development of a disease.

†Pericarditis. Tissue inflammation of the sac enclosing the heart.

*Peristalsis. The action in the walls of the oesophagus or intestines which forces the contents along.

†Peripheral blood circulation. The flow of blood to the arms and legs.

†Phenomenon. An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence which, when observed, is of scientific interest.

†Physiotherapy. Treatment of disease and injury by mechanical means such as massage, regulated exercise, water, light, heat, and electricity. Often concerned primarily with joint motion, large muscle groups, and activities such as walking and aerobic and isometric exercise. (Abbreviated “PT.” See also Occupational Therapy.)

†Pleurisy. Tissue inflammation of the sac enclosing the lungs.

*Primary Raynaud's. Raynaud's in isolation, without any underlying condition.

†Prognosis. Prediction of the progression and end result of a disease, or estimate of chance of recovery.

*Proliferation. Rapid growth of new parts or cells.

†Pulmonary fibrosis. A process in which the lungs are scarred, decreasing the transfer of oxygen to the blood. Also called restrictive lung disease. 

*Pulmonary. Pertaining to the lungs. 

†Pulmonary hypertension. Elevated pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs, decreasing blood oxygen and straining the right side of the heart.

*Pulmonary hypertension. A problem of obstruction to blood flow through the lungs. Can occur in scleroderma and cause breathing difficulties and may strain the heart. 

*Pyrosis. Heartburn

†Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Also called Raynaud’s syndrome. A disorder with recurring spasms of the small blood vessels upon exposure to cold; characterized by fingers and toes turning white, blue, and red as circulation abnormally overreacts to normal conditions. Emotional stress may also trigger an attack. Named for the French physician (Dr. Maurice Raynaud, pronounced “Ray-node”) who first described it.

†Relaxation techniques. Stress-reducing procedures, which can also be used to help regulate body functions such as finger temperature or pulse rate. These include tensing and relaxing muscles, imagery, breathing techniques, and medication. (See also Biofeedback.)

†Remission. Spontaneous remission. A period during which the symptoms of a disease decrease or go away. If the reason for remission is not related to treatment but seems to occur for no apparent reason, it is called spontaneous.

†Renal. Relating to the kidneys.

†Salivary glands. Glands which secrete fluid (saliva) into the mouth.

†Sclerodactyly. Thick, tight skin of the fingers and/or toes. (See Joint contracture.)

*Scleroderma. A connective tissue disease causing hardening or thickening of the skin. An important distinction is made between the systemic forms of the disorder (also called systemic sclerosis) and those just affecting the skin (sometimes called morphea)

†Sclerosis. An abnormal hardening of tissue.

*Serum. The clear liquid portion of the blood.

*Sine scleroderma. Scleroderma without skin involvement.

†Sjögren’s Syndrome. A chronic inflammatory disease characterized by decreased secretions, especially dry eyes and dry mouth, named for the Swedish physician who first described it. It may occur alone, or as a part of Scleroderma or other auto-immune diseases. (Pronounced “show-gren’s.”)

*Skin biopsy. A minor procedure performed under local anaesthetic to remove a tiny piece of skin to examine for evidence of scleroderma. 

†Skin ulceration. A break in the skin with loss of surface tissue. It may also be associated with inflammation, calcium deposits, and infection.

†Spasm. Involuntary and abnormal contraction of muscle.

*Specialists. The services of a dermatologist, rheumatologist, gastroenterologist, pulmonary specialist, cardiologist and/or renal physician who may be involved in the diagnosis and management of scleroderma.  

*Sphincter. A valve-like muscle found in the oesophagus and other organs.

†Stasis. A slowing or stoppage of body fluids as in venous stasis. Also, reduced motility of the intestines with retention of faeces.

*Stricture. A narrowing

*Sympathetic nerve fibres. Nerves which can control the diameter of blood vessels

†Systemic. Affecting the whole body rather than one of its parts. Opposite of localized.

*Systemic sclerosis. Another term for scleroderma. These terms are often used interchangeably and may be abbreviated to SSc. 

†Telangiectasia. An abnormal dilation of skin capillaries causing red spots on the skin.

*Thermography. A technique where an infrared camera photographically portrays the body’s surface temperature. 

*Toxic. Poisonous.  

*Ulceration. Open festering sores.  

†Vascular. Pertaining to, or composed of blood vessels.

†Vasodilator. A medication (or other substance) which causes widening of blood vessels.

*Xerostomia. Dry mouth. .




*Taken from her book “Living with Scleroderma” with permission from Anne H Maudsley MBE.


Taken from Scleroderma Australia’s booklet “Understanding & Managing Scleroderma” adapted from the Scleroderma Foundation’s information and revised by Dr Wendy Stephens. Rheumatologist.











Download the reg form hereBecome a Member

1. Download our registration form (left)

2. Be included in the newsletter

Link to alternative payment options


Please note: The new phone number for the Scleroderma Association of Queensland is 07 32773460. Our postal has changed too; it is PO Box 316, SALISBURY Qld. 4107. The new physical address of our office is 124A Evans Road Salisbury. If you would like to come and browse through some books in our library or have a chat or help, please visit on Wednesday between 9:30 and 12 midday.