Scleroderma and You
Scleroderma much like arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes skin problems such as discoloration, hardening and vascular system disruptions. The first variation of Scleroderma is known as limited systemic sclerosis, this disease causes deformity in the face, hands and arms. The other variant is called diffuse systemic sclerosis which can do major damage to the body’s organs. There is no treatment for Scleroderma itself however there are things can be done to repair or reverse the damage done to organs affected by it. As long as the disease does not spread to the heart there is little to no chance of a fatality through Scleroderma.
Scleroderma is believed to be a genetic disease since no environmental causes have been identified so far, however the gene that causes scleroderma has not been identified either. Other immune system diseases such as arthritis have proved to be caused by certain genes. One’s family history inevitably plays a part in Scleroderma and those with family members who have the disease should notify their physician. In some cases Scleroderma can cause cellular apoptosis (cell death) in which there can be heavy losses in some bodily systems. When this occurs the body’s immune system does further damage by rallying T cells to the site of apoptosis.
Scleroderma typically manifests through a thickening of the skin in addition to blood vessel collapse and/or hardening. The hands, fingers and feet of someone with Scleroderma can also swell up from the disease. Additional symptoms can include extreme extremity discoloration (white and blue fingers and hands) that can even result in amputation. Like many other arthritic-type conditions scleroderma is aggravated by cold weather so living in a hot climate is a good idea. At its advanced stages scleroderma can spread to the organs of a patient causing immense damage.
While rare scleroderma can cause renal failure in the kidneys, this was once a regular cause of death but it now treatable. If it travels to the lungs scleroderma can cause shortness of breath as well as coughing, shortness of breath and other respiratory problems. There have been cases in which the esophagus and stomach were damaged to the point of causing acid reflux disease and difficulty swallowing. Intestinal damage can result in a decreased ability to digest food and possibly anemia. Carpal tunnel is another common condition caused by scleroderma although it is much less serious than conditions listed previously.
While treatment for scleroderma does not exist (there is no cure) there are treatments available to combat the damage the disease does to a patient’s body. This ensures that one’s life is not easily cut short by Scleroderma and most of the time those with Scleroderma can lead relatively pain free lives. The older a patient is the more likely it is that Scleroderma will be fatal, this is due to the fact that older people often have more health problems than those who are young. This means that the organs are more open to damage and eventual failure from the immune system disease.