Scleroderma, or also known as systemic sclerosis, is a disease that affects the skin, connective tissue, and internal organs. This condition happens when our immune system causes our body to make too much protein collagen, which is an essential part of the skin. It also causes changes to the texture and appearance of the skin.
As a result to this condition, the skin get very thick and tight. The blood vessels can thicken and stop functioning the way they should. This could also result to tissue damage and high blood pressure.
There are two types of scleroderma:
· Localized scleroderma – this type mainly affects the skin and happens in two forms:
1. Morphea – this involves hard, oval-shaped patches on the skin that starts as red or purple and then turns whitish in the center.
2. Linear – this type causes lines or streaks of thickened skin on the arms, legs or face
· Systemic scleroderma – or also called general scleroderma, can affect one or more internal organs but not the skin
1. Limited scleroderma – this happens very gradually and affects the face, hands, and feet. It can also damage the lungs, intestines, and esophagus.
2. Diffuse scleroderma – this happens very quickly and affects the middle parts of the thighs, arms, hands, and feet. Also affects the internal organs, such as hearts, lungs, and kidneys
Doctors aren’t sure what causes scleroderma, but the body’s immune system plays a role in this. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system instead of protecting the skin from germs and diseases, causes inflammation.
Scleroderma’s symptoms may vary from person to person, depending on which body part is affected.
· If it affects the skin, you may experience thickening and tightening of patches on the skin.
· If it affects the fingers and toes, you will see small blood vessels in the fingers and then the toes start to constrict. As a result, the fingers and toes become very painful, turns blue or go dumb.
· If the digestive system is affected, it disrupts some parts of the digestive tract
· If it affects the heart, lungs, and kidneys, it becomes life threatening especially if it doesn’t get treated early
There really is no cure for scleroderma, but it can be managed so that it can progress very slowly. Managing symptoms include:
· Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
· Blood pressure medication
· Heartburn medication
· Medications to help move food through the intestines
· Drugs to boost blood flow to the fingers
Treatments for scleroderma have drastically improve in the past 30 years, although there is still no absolute cure from it and only symptoms management can help you live your daily life.
Talk to your medical provider if your symptoms are keeping you from enjoying your normal daily routine. It is best to discuss with them your condition so you can work together with your treatment plan. Finding a community who has similar experiences with you can also make it easier for you to cope with your condition.