Systemic sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory multiorgan disease belonging to the group of collagen-vascular disorders. With a prevalence of 10/100,000 inhabitants it may be regarded a rather rare disease. Its etiology and pathogenesis have still not been elucidated in detail, especially with regard to the differential involvement of skin and the cause of the clinically heterogeneous disease courses. Various components of the vasculature, connective tissue as well as the immune system are involved in a yet unknown sequence and significance. Patients need to be cared for in an interdisciplinary fashion depending on the individual organ involvement. Apart from the skin, the heart, kidneys and lungs are mainly affected in addition to frequent gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal symptoms. Clinically two distinct subsets may be separated, acral (also termed limited) and diffuse scleroderma, which are characterized by anti-centromere and anti-Scl-70/topoisomerase-1 antibodies, respectively. Recent data demonstrate a poor prognosis even in limited disease when pulmonary arterial hypertension develops at an early stage. In diffuse disease sudden and rapid onset will result in a sclerosis of major internal organs and early death in many cases.