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Naomi Rothfield, MD

Naomi F. Rothfield, M.D., was professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She is an internationally renowned rheumatologist with special expertise in the management of systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, and Raynaud disease. Her clinical research involves investigating new therapies for these and related conditions. In addition to her work at UConn Health, Dr. Rothfield is a consultant to several other area hospitals.

A 1950 graduate of Bard College, Dr. Rothfield received her medical degree from New York University School of Medicine in 1955. She served her internship at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and completed a fellowship in rheumatology at New York University School of Medicine. She went on to hold several teaching positions at NYU, becoming assistant professor in 1964.

Dr. Rothfield was a member of the first faculty of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, coming to UConn in 1968 as associate professor in the Department of Medicine. She became full professor in 1973. From 1973 to 1999, Dr. Rothfield served as chief of the Division of Rheumatic Diseases. She also directed the National Institutes of Health/University of Connecticut Multipurpose Arthritis Center for 20 years, beginning in 1978.

Dr. Rothfield’s honors and awards have included the 25 Pemberton Memorial Lecture from the Philadelphia Rheumatism Society (1975); Michael Einbender Distinguished Lecturer from the University of Missouri Arthritis Center (1979); 18th Annual Charles W. Thomas Lecturer from the Medical College of Virginia (1988); Knowles Lecture from the Northern California Rheumatism Association (1992); Solomon A. Berson Medical Alumni Achievement Award in Clinical Sciences from NYU School of Medicine (1995); Master of Rheumatology from the American College of Rheumatology (1995).

Dr. Rothfield has published more than 150 journal articles on rheumatologic diseases and has authored 42 book chapters. As a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Safety of Silicone Breast Implants, she authored a 1999 book reporting the group’s findings. Dr. Rothfield’s publications also include 60 abstracts and seven invited articles. She has served on advisory committees for numerous organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the federal Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases.

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Patient and doctor discussing test results

How is scleroderma diagnosed?

Ask the Expert


How is scleroderma diagnosed?


Because scleroderma's symptoms vary in severity and type, it may be hard to get a definitive, positive diagnosis in the early stages of the disease. Consult a physician if you have any of the following symptoms, but remember that none of these necessarily mean you have scleroderma: pitted scars on the fingertips; thickening or hardening of the skin (either in small patches or over larger portions of the face, hands and feet); fingertip ulcerations (sores); Raynaud's phenomenon; swelling and thickening of the skin on the hands and feet; pain and stiffness of the joints; joint contractures; digestive system and gastrointestinal tract problems, especially heartburn, and problems with food getting stuck in the esophagus on the way to the stomach; dry mucus membranes; kidney, heart and lung problems; nonspecific symptoms such as extreme fatigue, generalized weakness, weight loss and vague aching of muscles, joints and bones; and shortness of breath with lung X-rays showing fibrosis.

Another factor making diagnosis difficult is that many of these symptoms are common to other diseases, especially other connective-tissue diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and polymyositis (muscle inflammation).

In addition to the symptoms and physical changes apparent on examination, your physician may look at blood tests measuring autoantibodies (such as the antinuclear antibody test), along with the nailfold capillary test. Based on the observation that small capillaries in the hands may be dilated or disappear early on in scleroderma patients, the test involves taking a microscopic look at skin under the fingernail, to see if capillaries look normal.

Remember that the results from one test alone cannot conclusively determine whether you have scleroderma. It may take a team of health care professionals to analyze various test results. They will probably also need to look at your complete medical history before making a definitive diagnosis.

Read more:
What is scleroderma?
What causes scleroderma?
How is scleroderma treated?
What special precautions do I need to take if I have scleroderma and want to have a baby?
How can I prevent scleroderma?

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