28 Feb

Scleroderma is an umbrella term for a variety of skin conditions that cause hardening and tightening of the skin and associated connective tissues. Scleroderma may only affect the skin, or it may also affect blood vessels, internal organs, and even the digestive tract. Like most other conditions, symptoms and symptom severity vary from patient to patient – but data shows that women are more commonly afflicted with the condition. Skin is the most commonly affected organ, resulting in patches (ovals or lines) of hardened tissue. It often appears shiny and tight, and can even restrict movement of affected areas. Patients often report early symptoms of scleroderma as sensitivity to cold temperatures or emotional changes. Numbness, pain, and color changes are also sometimes seen in the fingers and toes. When the digestive system is affected, patients often suffer from acid reflux and nutrient deficiencies due to the inability to break down and absorb the vitamins and minerals from foods they consume. Although it rarely occurs, scleroderma could spread to delicate organs like the kidneys, heart, or lungs. In these cases, the condition may become life threatening.
Researchers know that scleroderma is caused when the body produces too much collagen, however, research is ongoing in an attempt to discover what prompts this overproduction. Classified as an autoimmune disorder, the most likely trigger is immune dysfunction that’s genetically based. Diagnosis is actually made by measuring immune antibodies in the blood. However, a scleroderma diagnosis can be difficult, as there are many different forms and a list of symptoms associated with the condition.
Treatments typically utilized for scleroderma include anti-inflammatory medications, as inflammation often promotes the progression of collagen formation in affected tissues. Immunosuppressive therapies are sometimes prescribed, and also address abnormal inflammatory responses. The rationale of immunosuppressants is that the immune system is responsible for the inflammation causing the fibrosis. For patients who suffer from vascular disease as a result of scleroderma, low blood flow to skin and tissues can make symptoms worse, so vasodilators are prescribed for patients experiencing this complication. Anti-fibrotic drugs work by decreasing the production of collagen, however, clinical experiments suggest that these drugs are not dose-dependent, and some researchers question their effectiveness to address the root of the condition.
Scleroderma patients who are frustrated with limited treatment routes often use alternative therapies. Herbal and nutritional remedies may be effective in the fight against scleroderma, but it’s important that patients recognize which symptoms are most prominent and then research which remedies are most relevant in their specific case.


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