Scleroderma is also called systemic sclerosis. It is a chronic connective tissue disease and comes under the category of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The most visible symptom of this disease is hardening of skin. Scleroderma is marked by an overproduction of collagen.
It is important to note that scleroderma is not infectious, contagious, cancerous or malignant.
Since scleroderma is a chronic disease, it can get very serious. However, the severity and symptoms of scleroderma differ from person to person. In some cases, scleroderma can even become life threatening.
Diagnosis of scleroderma done in consultation with Rheumatologist and/or dermatologist via blood tests or other specialized tests depending on areas affected. Since scleroderma is a form of autoimmune disease, there are many misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cases.
Localized scleroderma is very common in children whereas systemic scleroderma is common in adults.
Scleroderma is seen more in females than in males and average ratio is that of 4:1.
Scleroderma can happen full of any age, from infants to elderly people but its onset is most frequent in the ages of 22 to 55.
Types of scleroderma:
2 major types of scleroderma are localized scleroderma and systemic scleroderma.
When the changes to skin are found in only a few places and don’t spread elsewhere, it is called localized scleroderma. Localized scleroderma is mild and internal organs are usually not affected.
Systemic scleroderma or sclerosis involves larger areas of skin than localized scleroderma. The condition can also involve hardening of internal organs such as esophagus, gastrointestinal tract, Kidneys, lungs and other internal organs. Some cases may also involve blood vessels muscles and joints. Since the affected organs are hardened, they function less efficiently.
Scleroderma can be treated by medications, therapy and as a last resort by doing surgery.
Medication can only control the symptoms and help prevent complications in scleroderma. There is no Medicine available to completely cure scleroderma.
Medication is generally used to dilate blood vessels that otherwise may cause lung or kidney problems.
Since it is also a form of autoimmune disease, medicines are used to suppress the auto immune system. Other medications are used to prevent infections caused due to hardening of skins and other organs.
Therapies are done to manage pain, gain strength, improve mobility and be able to do daily tasks.
In cases where finger ulcers have developed gangrene, amputation may be required. Certain cases of scleroderma that lead to pulmonary hypertension may also require lung transplants.