Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disease of connective tissue, which is characterized by overproduction of collagen resulting in thickening or scarring of the tissue. Its causes are not known. It usually affects the people in the age between 35 to 50 years. It begins with swelling in the hands and feet. The later symptoms are Raynaud’s disease, thickening of the skin and red spots on the face and hands. It is diagnosed by blood test and skin biopsy. There is no permanent cure for this disease. But it can be managed with immunosuppressants, blood pressure medicines, phototherapy or physical therapy.
Is Scleroderma Disease Fatal?
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of rheumatic nature that causes the hardening of the connective tissue. In this disease, the body mistakenly considers the connective tissue as a foreign invader and create a protective attack on them. This results in too much production of collagen tissues that cause hardening of the skin.
Scleroderma disease can be fatal. It can be life-threatening. Its fatal or not depends on the involvement of the organ and extent of its spread. It differs from person to person. It is a chronic ailment that is not contagious. Its etiology is not known. It usually develops in between 35 and 50 years. Children and adults can catch the disease. It is not a hereditary disease.
The symptoms of scleroderma are-
- Tiredness in the whole body
- Pain in the joint
- Stiffness in the hands and feet
- Discoloration in the skin
- Difficulties in swallowing
- Thickness in the skin
- Dryness in the mucous membrane
- Deposition of calcium under the skin
- Ulcers on the fingers or toes without known reasons
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which feet and hands get blanched from white, to blue or to red due to cold or stress. After the appearance of the Raynaud’s disease, it may take months to years to develop into scleroderma.
There are two types of Scleroderma –
Localized Scleroderma- it is a type of scleroderma whose affection is limited to the skin. It does not spread to internal organs.
Systemic Scleroderma- scleroderma in which the disease involves multiple systems i.e. skin, blood vessels, lungs, heart, kidneys and other vital organs are known as systemic scleroderma.
Diagnosis of Scleroderma
Your physician can diagnose scleroderma by examining your signs and symptoms. Physician will investigate the impact of the disease over the vital organs such as heart, lung. Doctor may observe the skin under the microscope. Physician will order you blood tests to check the levels of specific antibodies. Doctor may also ask you for a skin biopsy to confirm the disease.
Treatment for Scleroderma
There is no definite cure for scleroderma. There is no specific medicine to prevent the overproduction of the collagen fibers. The treatment is dependent on the health of the individual and the course of the disease.
Scleroderma can be treated in the following ways-
- Blood pressure medicines are prescribed to dilate the blood vessels. This may help in controlling Raynaud’s disease and protect the organs like lungs and kidneys.
- Immunosuppressants are given to control the immune system.
- Phototherapy and laser therapy may be used to improve the appearance of the skin.
- Physical therapy can help in managing pain, mobility and the strength of the joints.
Complications of Scleroderma
There is a constant risk of development of cancer if you have scleroderma. Constant tightening of the skin can restrict your movement of joint and muscles of the involved region. Other complications can be gangrenes, breathing problems, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and heart failure.
Scleroderma is a chronic disease of connective tissue, which is marked by the hardening of the skin. It may affect many vital organs. It has a gradual onset and may take months to years to develop. It may be mild in nature, but can be fatal or life-threatening in certain cases.
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