The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of scleroderma. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
What is scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can affect the skin, blood vessels, muscles, or internal organs. An autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body. Scleroderma means “hard skin,” which is a common manifestation of the disease.
What causes scleroderma?
The exact cause of scleroderma is not known; however, it appears to be linked to the body’s overproduction of collagen, a protein that makes up the body’s connective tissues and skin. It is more common in women than men, and typically occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.
What are the symptoms of scleroderma?
Common symptoms of scleroderma include:
- Hardening, thickening, or discoloration of the skin
- Loss of hair
- Ulcerations (sores) on fingers or toes
- Pain, swelling, or stiffness in the joints
- Dry cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Complications with the digestive tract, such as diarrhea, constipation, or heartburn
How is scleroderma diagnosed?
Your Hurley physician will conduct a complete physical exam and may order blood tests to help confirm the diagnosis. Additional tests may be ordered, such as X rays, CT scans, skin biopsies, echocardiograms, or urinalysis.
How is scleroderma treated?
There is currently no cure for scleroderma, as there is no known method to stop the body’s overproduction of collagen; however, treatments are available to help manage the disease. There are a wide variety of medications that can be used to control the many symptoms of scleroderma. In addition, your physician may recommend physical or occupational therapy, certain lotions or creams to relieve dry skin, or cosmetic procedures to correct visible damage to the skin. It is also important to stay active, quit smoking, keep warm, and avoid stressful situations. Your Hurley physician’s patient-and family-centered treatment approach will be based on your particular case.