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How is systemic sclerosis diagnosed?

There's no single test for systemic sclerosis, and the characteristic thickening of the skin is often the key factor in making the diagnosis. However, tests can be helpful in finding out whether other parts of your body are affected.

What tests are there?

Tests could include:

  • blood tests
  • x-rays and computerised tomography (CT) scans
  • breathing tests
  • a heart scan (echocardiogram or ECG)
  • stomach tests, for example an endoscopy
  • a skin biopsy, where a small piece of skin is removed and examined under a microscope.

You may also have a capillaroscopy, which looks at the small blood vessels (capillaries) under a microscope, or thermography, which takes images of the heat coming from your body using an infrared camera, although they're often only performed at specialist centres.

After you've been diagnosed, you might need to see your doctor regularly to monitor your condition. Most people have yearly tests to check for early signs of the more serious complications, such as effects on the heart and lungs.

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