Scleroderma - Symptoms & Treatment
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It is a rare, progressive disease that leads to hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues - the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body. There are two types of scleroderma: Localized scleroderma and Generalized scleroderma. In some cases, this localized scleroderma is just a cosmetic problem. Scleroderma is chronic, which means it can last a long time. Scleroderma is called both a rheumatic disease and a connective tissue disease. The term rheumatic disease refers to a group of conditions characterized by inflammation and pain in the muscles, joints, or fibrous tissue. Progressive systemic scleroderma or systemic sclerosis, the generalised type of the disease, can be fatal. The word scleroderma means 'hard skin.' Scleroderma is a condition where the skin gets thick and hard. Scleroderma affects many organ systems. It is most obvious in the skin; however, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory, renal, cardiovascular, and genitourinary systems, as well as numerous vascular structures, are frequently involved.
Scleroderma can damage large areas of skin or only the fingers. One form of scleroderma, called limited scleroderma, tends to stay restricted to the skin of the hands. Calcinosis may occur on the fingers and extremities, usually the extensor side of the forearms and the prepatellar areas; however, any area can be affected. Scleroderma usually starts with a few dry patches of skin on the hands or face that begin getting thicker and harder. These patches then spread to other areas of the skin. The skin changes and other features of disease tend to occur more slowly than in the diffuse form. The cause of scleroderma is not yet proven. Genetic factors appear to predispose patients to the disease, but whether scleroderma is the result of some combination of genetic factors and other exposures is unknown. Twins and family members of patients with scleroderma or other autoimmune connective tissue diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, appear to be at a slightly increased risk. There's no cure for scleroderma, but there are ways of overcoming the problems it may bring.
Causes of Scleroderma
The common causes and risk factor's of Scleroderma include the following:
- The exect cause of scleroderma is unknown.
- An overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues.
- Exposure to industrial solvents or an environmental agent may play a role in predisposing to scleroderma.
- Viral infections.
- Organic solvents such as vinyl chloride or trichloroethylene.
Symptoms of Scleroderma
Some sign and symptoms related to Scleroderma are as follows:
- Arthritis and muscle weakness.
- Numbness, pain or color changes in your fingers, toes, cheeks, nose and ears, often brought on by cold or emotional distress.
- Dryness of eyes.
- Sores over joints, such as your elbows and knuckles.
- Digestive problems.
- Thickened skin patches.
- Small red spots may appear on the surface of your skin.
- Joints can swell and become painful and stiff.
Treatment of Scleroderma
Here is list of the methods for treating Scleroderma:
- Esophagus irritation and heartburn can be relieved with omeparazole, esomeprazole, or lansoprazole.
- Antacids can also be helpful.
- To treat skin thickening, medications may include penicillamine.
- Bosentan or epoprostenol may be effective for a potentially serious condition called pulmonary hypertension in which the blood pressure in the lung's blood vessels is elevated.
- To treat joint pain and swelling, medications such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help.
- Physical therapy and exercise can help to maintain muscle strength but cannot totally prevent joints from freezing in permanent positions.
- To treat Raynaud's phenomenon, calcium channel blockers may help.