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Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that can affect the skin, connective tissue and internal organs and is often caused by exposure to toxins. Unfortunately, some of our clients have been diagnosed with Scleroderma, so we want to help raise awareness of the risks associated with this condition, what it’s like to live with scleroderma, and how people at an increased risk of developing scleroderma at work may be able to hold their employers accountable.  

Find out how exposure to silica dust, fumes and organic solvents in the workplace can increase your risk of developing scleroderma and what to do if you have received a scleroderma diagnosis. 

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a group of rare diseases of the body’s connective tissue. It causes the skin to thicken and harden, particularly on the hands and face. The condition can also cause problems in the blood vessels, internal organs such as the lungs and digestive tract.

What are the first signs or symptoms of scleroderma?

Many different areas of the body can be affected, and scleroderma symptoms can be quite different from person to person.

Scleroderma can severely affect quality of life, and symptoms include:

  • Hard thickening or tight skin;
  • Hair loss and reduced ability to sweat and cool the body;
  • Swollen, stiff and painful joints;
  • Muscle shortening and weakness;
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold, stress or both;
  • Problems swallowing;
  • Heartburn;
  • Scarring of the lungs which can lead to shortness of breath;
  • High blood pressure; and
  • Heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

What causes scleroderma?

While the exact cause of scleroderma is unknown, there is increasing evidence suggesting that scleroderma can occur in workplace settings where workers are exposed to toxins that cause the body to have a severe immune response.

Various medical studies have revealed a prevalence of autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma in people who have been exposed to silica dust, organic solvents (such as paint thinners, glue solvents, and dry-cleaning products) and welding fumes.

Some of the most high-risk industries for scleroderma are mining, construction, pottery, foundry, welding and stonemasonry.

What should you do if you have been exposed at work?

If you have worked somewhere with exposure to toxins such as silica dust, organic solvents and fumes, and you are concerned you might be at risk of developing scleroderma or another workplace disease, see your GP. It’s important you also inform them of your occupation, and exposure levels so they have all the information.

Your GP can guide you as to the need for any ongoing monitoring for scleroderma symptoms depending on your specific circumstances.

Read more about: Exposed to dust, fumes or chemicals at work? 3 Things to tell your doctor

Why you might need legal advice after a scleroderma diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with scleroderma and have a history of work exposure to silica dust, organic solvents and fumes, and/or work in a high-risk industry, it is important to get legal advice to help you understand your rights and options.

Maurice Blackburn’s experienced scleroderma lawyers are here to help you understand your rights and guide you through the legal journey after a scleroderma diagnosis, so you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your claim. 

Read more about: Hak's story: how dust exposure can lead to a devastating scleroderma diagnosis  


Learn more about our work in workplace disease compensation

Our dedicated workplace disease lawyers have significant experience in helping clients get compensation for occupational diseases caused by asbestos, silicadust exposure and more. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

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We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Australian Capital Territory. If you need a lawyer in Canberra or elsewhere in Australian Capital Territory, please call us on 1800 675 346.

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