Scleroderma, also called systemic sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects connective tissues. One of the characteristic symptoms of this rheumatic condition is the hardening of the skin. The nature of symptoms and their severity vary from patient to patient.
Scleroderma is not contagious or infectious.
What Are The Symptoms Of Scleroderma?
The symptoms of scleroderma vary according to the body part affected by the condition. It affects the following parts:
People with scleroderma may develop oval-shaped hard patches on the skin. The patches could form straight lines or may be spread across the trunk and limbs.
The formation of patches may affect the movement of the area. The size of the patches and their number is determined by the type of scleroderma.
Fingers To Toe
Raynaud’s disease is one of the earliest signs of scleroderma. The condition causes the small blood vessels of your toes and fingers to contract when under emotional stress or when exposed to cold temperatures. At that time, fingers and toes may become numb or feel painful.
Heart, Kidneys, Or Lungs
Scleroderma could adversely affect the functioning of the kidneys, heart, and lungs. It could become life-threatening if left untreated.
If scleroderma affects the digestive tract, one would experience various digestive symptoms that vary according to the part of the digestive system affected. You might experience cramps if the intestine is affected. If it is the esophagus that is affected, you might have difficulty swallowing.
What Causes Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is caused by the overproduction of collagen and its accumulation in body tissues. Our connective tissues are made of collagen, a fibrous protein.
The exact causes of excessive collagen production are unknown but our immune system has a role to play in it. Scleroderma is often caused by a combination of several factors like genetics, immune function problems, and environmental triggers.
How Is Scleroderma Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of scleroderma requires you to visit a rheumatologist and/or a skin specialist. You will also have to take blood tests and many other specialized tests.
How Is Scleroderma Treated?
As of now, there is no cure for scleroderma. All treatments focus on keeping the symptoms under check. Some treatments intend to reduce the activity of the immune system as scleroderma is an autoimmune condition. Heartburn, a characteristic symptom of scleroderma, is controlled by medications like proton pump inhibitors.
With proper and regular treatment, people with scleroderma can improve their quality of life.