Scleroderma

Roughly 300,000 people in the United States suffer from scleroderma. This chronic connective tissue disease results from an overproduction of collagen in the skin and other organs. Scleroderma usually appears in people between the ages of 25 and 55. Women get scleroderma more often than men. The disease worsens slowly over the years.

There are two types of scleroderma: localized scleroderma, which involves only the skin, and systemic scleroderma, which involves the skin and other organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, intestine and gallbladder. Typical symptoms of the skin include skin hardening, skin that is abnormally dark or light, skin thickening, shiny hands and forearms, small white lumps beneath the skin’s surface, tight facial skin, ulcerations on the fingers or toes and change in color of the fingers and toes from exposure to heat or cold. Other symptoms impact bones, muscles, lungs and the digestive tract.

Symptoms

The common signs of scleroderma are:

  • Abnormally dark or light skin
  • Change in color of the fingers and toes from exposure to heat or cold
  • Hardening of the skin
  • Shiny hands and forearms
  • Small white lumps beneath the skin's surface
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Tight facial skin
  • Ulcerations on the fingers or toes

There is no known cause of scleroderma, nor is there a cure. There are individualized treatments that are designed to help alleviate certain symptoms and decrease the activity of the immune system to further slow down the disease.

Treatments

No treatment can cure scleroderma, but medication can help relieve the symptoms, prevent complications and slow down the progression of the disease. Treatment may include:

  • Blood pressure medications to help kidney and lung function
  • Drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Surgical intervention

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