Scleroderma is a sporadic autoimmune disease with an annual incidence of 10 cases per million inhabitants. This pathology can affect both men and women, but it is more frequent in the latter. Also, the age of onset is generally between 30 to 50 years of age; although it can occur at any age, some cases even arise in childhood.
The cause of this pathology is unknown, and it is not considered to be transmissible through genetic inheritance, although it could be a risk factor. Its main characteristic is the thickening and hardening of the tissue, especially in the skin; However, the disease is divided into several types, some more serious than others. There are various symptoms of varying intensity. Due to how little known this disease is, at FastlyHealwe want to offer you the best information regarding scleroderma: what it is, its symptoms, and its treatment.
What is scleroderma?
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that damages the body’s connective tissue; the immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues that support and protect the dermis and internal organs. This generates lesions in the structures, producing the inflammatory process and fibrosis, the overproduction of collagen as a healing effect, so the tissue in the affected area thickens and hardens.
Because this disease can be variable because it encompasses different structures, there are several types of scleroderma, each with other symptoms and degree of intensity. Still, for a better understanding, they are classified into two large groups:
It mainly affects the skin, but sometimes it can include the tissue under it, including adipose, joints, muscles, or bones, without reaching the internal organs and is produced by the manufacture and excessive accumulation of collagen in this area. This group represents the types that frequently do not carry a problematic situation and whose symptoms can disappear independently; however, it is not the same in all cases, so timely treatment is the best way to avoid irreparable damage to the skin.
It affects various tissues, especially the skin, blood vessels, muscles, bones, and internal organs. This affectation involves three primary reactions: the immune system’s auto-attack and the possible damage to the blood vessels causing them to contract. Not being able to relax, episodes of spasms can arise in the wall that closes the duct and fibrosis in organs. Important such as the heart and lungs, whose excess collagen impedes the flexibility of the affected organ, causing its function to be deficient. It involves vital organs; it is considered a severe condition and needs urgent treatment.
Symptoms due to scleroderma cannot be generalized or specific for all cases since it will depend on the type of scleroderma, the structures affected, and the person’s predisposition. However, some of the most common symptoms are:
- Raynaud’s phenomenon: it is the decrease in blood flow in certain parts of the body due to stimuli such as cold or nerves, and they turn purple, mainly in the fingers and toes, although it also occurs in the ears or the tip of the nose. This alteration in circulation prevents wounds from healing properly, turning into ulcers on the skin.
- Sclerodactyly: The skin thickens, stretches, and hardens, mainly on the fingers, but it can also be on the hands and forearms. This causes the ability to flex and extend the structures to be lost, leading to a musculoskeletal deformity; they remain fixed and bent.
- Swelling: often in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Sometimes, when the node is excellent, it may press on a nerve, such as in the wrist, causing numbness in the area.
- Joint pain or stiffness.
- General or muscle weakness.
- Calcinosis: it is known by this name for small white lumps of calcium that develop under the skin. When this bursts, they can release a white substance through the skin. They can be found on the fingers, forearm, or elbows.
- Skin problems: these can vary for each case, but some include sores on the tips of the fingers, dry skin, some parts of the skin becoming darker or lighter, there is irritation or hypersensitivity in the skin, the loss of body hair, facial wrinkles are tightened, and it becomes difficult to open your mouth a lot.
- Digestive disorders: by compromising the flexibility of the structures, there are problems in the different movements that are carried out in the digestive system, which makes it difficult to eat and pass it to the stomach; there is reflux, nausea, vomiting, gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.
- Heart difficulties: both the muscle and the blood vessels can be affected and include arrhythmias, hypertension, inflammation of the membrane that covers the heart, chest pain, and heart failure.
- Pulmonary disorders: initially, there may be a dry cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath; with further deterioration, there may be respiratory failure.
- Kidney disorders: the functions of the kidneys are altered, either by damage to the blood vessels of the organ, whose manifestation is made with a sudden and increasing increase in blood pressure.
Is scleroderma curable?
Unfortunately, scleroderma is not curable. Its treatment is based on the relief and reduction of symptoms, which is why it is necessary to control throughout life, especially in cases of systemic scleroderma due to its chronic nature. Be. For this, it is essential that at the first indication of the disease, you go to the doctor, who will grant a personalized treatment depending on the type of condition, its progress, and general health status, since there is no single procedure due to to the variable of the pathology. If necessary, a group with professionals from various specialties, such as cardiologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, nephrologists, and dermatologists, among others, is integrated.
Pharmacological treatment mainly includes drugs with vasodilator effects to relax the blood ducts, antifibrotics to inhibit substances that favor collagen production, and immunosuppressants, which prevent the activation of immune cells that attack the tissue itself. These can be accompanied by other drugs to combat specific symptoms, including antacids, stomach protectors, antibiotics, those to improve intestinal transit, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, antihypertensives, and moisturizing creams.
Physiotherapy also plays a vital role in this disease for the recovery of damaged joints and structures that have lost their ability to flex, in addition to rehabilitating strength in the muscles and blood flow in the area. The specialist is the only one who determines the type, intensity, and application of the exercises for each case and the condition of the affected person.
What is other care necessary for scleroderma?
In addition to following conventional treatment, there are some measures that you can practice to help relieve symptoms, and you can ask your doctor about them, but mainly:
- Protect your skin from the cold, even wearing gloves, promoting blood flow.
- Learn to handle stress or anxiety situations.
- Maintain good hydration.
- Use sunscreen, thus reducing the effect of skin color change.
- Avoid using soaps or other cleaning products with harsh chemicals.
- Eat several meals a day in small amounts.
- Avoid heavy or irritating foods, including highly seasoned foods, fats, chocolate, coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks.
- Practice correct oral hygiene, and use a special rinse.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.