What Is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a rare pathological condition in which the skin and the connective tissues becomes hard and tight. In majority of people, only the skin gets affected due to Scleroderma but in some cases even the blood vessels and some organs of the body have also been affected. Scleroderma is found more in females than in males and is usually observed in the age range of 30-60. There is no definitive cure for Scleroderma but various treatments are available to control symptoms and improve the quality of life of the affected individual.
What Are The Causes Of Scleroderma?
The root cause of Scleroderma is excessive production of collagen in the body tissues resulting in its accumulation. Collagen is a protein whose function is to build connective tissues and skin. The exact reason behind overproduction of collagen is unclear till date but researchers are of the opinion that an individual's immune system plays a vital role in development of Scleroderma.
What Are The Symptoms Of Scleroderma?
The symptoms of Scleroderma depend on the part of the body involved. Some of the symptoms are:
- Skin: There is development of skin patches which are thick and hard. These patches are usually oval shaped. The skin becomes so tight that it becomes shiny and there is restricted movement of that part of the body due to the tightness of the skin.
- Fingers: When the fingers or the toes are involved, then there will be an amplified response to cooler weather or emotional stress as a result of which the affected individual will experience numbness, pain or discoloration of the fingers or toes. This phenomenon is called as Raynaud's.
- Digestive System: When the digestive system is involved, there will be significant damage to the esophagus which may affect adequate swallowing. Additionally, there will be problems absorbing nutrients.
How Is Scleroderma Diagnosed?
Scleroderma is a complicated disease to diagnose appropriately as it tends to affect multiple areas. In order to diagnose Scleroderma, the treating physician will conduct a detailed physical examination to look for tight skin patches. Apart from a physical examination, the physician may also order blood tests to look for elevated levels of certain antibodies. A skin biopsy may also be done. Additionally, the physician may also order PFTs to look at the status of the lungs and an EKG to check the function of the heart.
What Are Treatments For Scleroderma?
As stated, there is no definitive cure for Scleroderma but there are various treatments available to control symptoms and improve quality of life of the individual. Some of the treatment measures are:
Medications For Scleroderma:
There is no specific medication to treat Scleroderma but certain medications used for other conditions may help with the symptoms of this disease. Hypertensive medications tend to dilate the blood vessels and help with Raynaud's phenomenon caused due to Scleroderma as well as protect the lungs and the kidneys. Medications used to suppress the immune system of the body can also be used for control the symptoms of Scleroderma. Medication like omeprazole is used to help with acid efflux due to Scleroderma. Regular pain medications can be used for pain relief. Antibiotics are also used for frequent infections that can be caused due to Scleroderma.
Therapy For Scleroderma:
Apart from medications, physical therapy and occupational therapy also plays an important role in controlling symptoms of Scleroderma and more so improving the quality of life. A therapist will formulate a plan which will help in the following:
- Managing pain
- Improve strength and mobility
- Maintaining independence
- Improving quality of life.
What Are The Home & Herbal Remedies For Scleroderma?
Some of the home remedies suggested to improve quality of life in individuals with Scleroderma are:
- Staying as active as possible with diligent exercises to keep the body flexible and improve joint stiffness and range of motion.
- Avoiding smoking as this can cause the blood vessels to become narrow
- Avoidance of food that may result in heartburn or gas.
- Do not get overexposed to cold weather as it tends to worsen the symptoms of Scleroderma.
Herbal Remedies For Scleroderma:
There are certain herbal treatments for scleroderma, ingredients for which can be easily found at home and can come in handy. Some of the treatment measures are:
Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin which has antioxidants and an individual can benefit from it. Curcumin is useful; in calming down inflammation and it does so by cutting down the levels of histamine and thus enhancing production of natural cortisones. Additionally, Turmeric is also helpful in treatment of pain and discomfort.
Bromelain: This is also a form of herbal treatment which is useful in treating scleroderma. Research shows that it is a mixture of protein digesting enzymes which are usually found in Pineapples. This is a treatment which has been used for many decades for treatment of different illnesses. This treatment is not specific for Scleroderma bit it can be used for reducing pain and inflammation.