Scleroderma is also called systematic sclerosis. A chronic illness comes under the category of autoimmune rheumatic illness. Scleroderma is the combination of two Greek words that mean “hard skin.” Even though the symptoms of Scleroderma are very vast, hardening of the skin is the most visible symptom of this disease.
Scleroderma is a combination of rare diseases affects the skin and its connective tissue. In extreme cases, it affects the body’s framework way beyond the skin. The blood vessels, organs, and digestive system are affected.
According to research, Scleroderma is caused by the production of collagen in the tissues n access. Collagen is a fibrous type of special protein that makes up the skin. However, the reasons what alleviate the production of collagen in the skin are still unknown to scientists. However, once the collagen increases its production, the body’s immune system also lets go its guard and the body get inflamed.
There is no one cause or risk factor for Scleroderma. Scientists believe that genetics play a role. Some patients also develop Scleroderma after exposure to certain harmful chemicals for longer periods. However, more research needs to be done to be able to determine what actually causes Scleroderma and how it can be limited.
Describe typical signs and symptoms of the disease/condition as well as its progression.Scleroderma has various different symptoms according to the body part being affected. When the skin is affected, it becomes tight and hard. Patches of skin become hard oval lumps or straight lines appear that are flaky. In addition, due to the tightness of the skin, it becomes shiny and the fine natural lines of the skin disappear. The tightness of the skin may restrict the movement of the particular body part.
The Raynaud’s Phenomena is one of the first signs of Scleroderma that is seen in patients. In this, the fingers and toes become extremely sensitive to cold temperatures and emotional situations. The fingers and toes become numb and change colors. However, this condition is also present in people without Scleroderma.
When the digestive system is affected, there is acidic reflux, which damages the section of the esophagus that is nearest to the stomach. In some patients, there is also a complication of nutrient absorption if the food is not moved fast enough in the intestines. In extreme cases, the body organs are affected by Scleroderma. In such cases, it affects the heart, liver and kidneys, which become life threatening.
Diagnosis of Scleroderma is also very tricky as its symptoms vary. There is not any one blood test or X-ray that can conclude that a patient has Scleroderma. For a diagnosis, a doctor may need a complete patient history and order multiple tests and X-rays. The doctor will need to look at the physical symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomena, skin thickening, tightening and swelling. They will look for swollen and burst blood vessels in the hands, nails and face. There may also be traces of calcium deposits in the skin. The restriction of the movement of a certain body part may cause joint pain. If the Scleroderma is affecting the body organs, then the patient may experience heartburn and increased blood pressure.
Scleroderma is a very rare disease with only about 100,000 cases recorded in the US. This is the reason why there is not much evidence of causes and risk factors associated with it. Seventy five percent of the patients of Scleroderma are women. The age group most affected is from 30-50.
Scleroderma is a chronic disease. This means that it cannot be cured completely. However, there are treatments that can be done to reduce the pain and discomfort caused by Scleroderma. A rheumatologist is usually the type of doctor that deals with Scleroderma patients. One single doctor may be chosen to lead the team of doctors that are required to treat the different health problems that may arise due to Scleroderma. Patients may need to consult doctors about their heart, bones, lungs, kidneys, skin, teeth, digestion, movement and speech.
People that are diagnosed with Scleroderma are advised to use oil-based lotions regularly to keep their skin from drying and stiffening. Soaps and other hard cleansers are avoided. Regular exercise is required to keep the joints flexible. Medicines that help in the blood flow are given to Scleroderma patients to reduce the symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomena. To avoid gastrointestinal problems, small frequent meals are advised. Food eaten should be soft and easily chewable. Scleroderma should limit their intake of caffeine and alcohol and restrain from smoking.
There is no special medication that can be taken to eliminate or reduce the symptoms of Scleroderma. Doctors generally prescribe a combination of drugs and self-care treatments depending on the area being affected.
Scleroderma patients are often times concerned about the way their skin looks. Scleroderma affects a person’s whole life from doing simple tasks like taking a bath to sexual relations.
It is important to take the proper precautions to make sure that the scleroderma is as confined as possible. The doctor is the best resource for information. Doctors should be consulted and followed. It is also advised to join support groups so that depression is limited. There should also be precautions taken to limit exposure to extreme weather especially winters.
Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, if there is a medical history of scleroderma in the family, then it is important to be on the lookout for symptoms that point towards this chronic disease. Even though it cannot be cured, the living standards may be increased and the pain may be managed largely.
Future Research on Scleroderma
Although there has been great advancement in the field of medicine, there are still many researches being done on scleroderma. Some researches include the understanding of the genes that may be responsible for causing scleroderma, making medicines that may prevent the skin from thickening and causing kidney and lung problems and developing methods for the detection of scleroderma in its earlier stages.
Research has helped the patient diagnosed with scleroderma to feel more acceptable and be more physically active. They live a better life as compared to the scleroderma patients a few years back.
Scleroderma is a serious health condition that needs to be addressed immediately. Various different treatments can be tried to ease the pain and discomfort of scleroderma patients. It is important to detect if this disease is affecting any organ before the damage becomes irreversible. Support groups, family, and friends can help such patients cope with their pain. With the correct treatment and therapy, scleroderma patients can lead a full complete life with minimum assistance needed.
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