Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that causes the thickening and tightening of the skin due to increased collagen production. It also affects other parts of the body, including blood vessels, internal organs, and the digestive tract. Anyone can get this disease, but it mainly affects women between 35 and 55.
Scleroderma symptoms range from minor to severe, depending on how prevalent the condition is and which body areas are affected. Although there is no cure for scleroderma, treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent complications, such as heart or kidney failure.
What are the types of scleroderma?
Scleroderma has two main types:
1- Localized scleroderma: It mainly affects the skin and appears in one of the below forms:
- Morphea: This type causes discolored oval-shaped patches on the skin.
- Linear: This type causes thick skin streaks or bands on the arms, legs, and face.
2- Systemic scleroderma: It is a severe form of this disease that can damage numerous parts of the body and has two main types:
- Limited scleroderma: This type affects the skin, lungs, intestines, and esophagus. It is also called CREST syndrome after its five symptoms:
- Calcinosis: when calcium salts create nodules under your skin or in your organs.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon: when there is a lack of blood flow to portions of your body, such as your fingers or nose.
- Esophageal dysfunction: when your esophagus does not function properly.
- Sclerodactyly: when your skin thickens, making it difficult to move your fingers and toes.
- Telangiectasia: when blood vessels form near the skin’s surface.
- Diffuse scleroderma: This type causes the thickening of the middle part of your body, your thighs, upper arms, hands, and feet. Internal organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract, are also affected by this type of scleroderma.
What are the symptoms of scleroderma?
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Red spots on the face and hands
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Ulcers at the tips of your fingers
- Having difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Muscle weakness
How is scleroderma treated?
Treatment options that will help alleviate symptoms and reduce the progression of scleroderma include:
- Heartburn medications
- NSAIDs (such as Ibuprofen or aspirin) to reduce swelling and pain.
- Blood pressure medication to help widen blood vessels.
- Immunosuppressive medications to slow your immune system.
- Medications that treat digestive problems and relieve stomach discomfort.
- Medications that increase blood flow to the fingers or unblock blood arteries in your lungs
Patients with scleroderma can manage their condition by making some lifestyle changes, including exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and avoiding stressful situations.
Therapy can help you manage the effects of scleroderma on your mind and body. Therapy examples include:
Physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you exercises that will help improve your quality of life by enhancing your strength and flexibility.
Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can teach you how to do your daily duties and activities while reducing stress on your body.
People with severe symptoms may not respond to nonsurgical treatments and may be candidates for an organ transplant if their organs have been badly damaged.
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