Out of the many autoimmune diseases, scleroderma is often overlooked due to its obscure name and nature. However, abnormal collagen production comes in many different forms. Scleroderma can cause mobility complications, gastrointestinal problems, and even death. Here is what you need to know about scleroderma.
What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma, or “hardened skin” refers to an autoimmune disease in which the skin becomes tight and hardened. The effects of scleroderma may appear over long or short periods of time as well. Some common signs of scleroderma include hard or tight skin on the hands, feet, face, neck, elbows, legs, and knees. this can make it appear shiny. Bumps, spots, or lines on the skin may appear as well, and those affected may also experience difficulty swallowing. For some, symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease may occur, in which blood vessels begin to spasm and block blood flow. This can lead to discoloration at the fingers, toes, and other affected areas, along with numbness.
There are three main types of scleroderma: limited scleroderma (CREST), diffuse scleroderma, and sine sclerosis. Sine sclerosis, unlike CREST and diffuse scleroderma, does not feature skin symptoms.
The Difference Between CREST and Diffuse Scleroderma
The three types of scleroderma are quite different. Limited scleroderma, or CREST, only features the hardening of the skin. Sine scleroderma, on the other hand, involves organ tissue hardening, without skin symptoms. This includes areas around the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, and other parts of the body. Diffuse scleroderma is a combination of both sine sclerosis and limited scleroderma, meaning it affects the skin and internal organs alike.
When Does it Get Deadly?
CREST itself is not always deadly because it mainly affects the skin. Sine sclerosis and diffuse scleroderma, however, can become deadly if the lungs and heart are affected. Scleroderma affects everyone differently, so doctors will have to run tests to find which parts of the body are affected most. Some people who have diffuse scleroderma or sine sclerosis may never have to worry about their heart or lungs at all. This, of course, doesn’t mean people whose lungs and heart are affected by scleroderma are going to die—there are many treatments for scleroderma and research continues to improve.
Scleroderma Treatment Options
Since scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, immunosuppressants can be used to treat it, but may not always work. Other treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs and temperature therapy. This can reduce swelling in the skin and blood vessels, muscle pain, and weakness. Blood pressure medications can help improve blood flow and prevent kidney damage. Calcium channel blockers are also effective at treating symptoms associated with Raynaud’s disease as well. As for lung and heart treatments, research on what works best is still in progress. However, drug therapy for vascular diseases can help slow the spread of scleroderma to the arteries, heart, and lungs.
If you or a loved one has concerns about scleroderma, speak with your primary care physician. To browse alternative pain cure methods, visit the Medical Supply Depot