Scleroderma: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, And Precautions

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Dr Jisha Pillai, Dermatologist, Lilavati Hospital Mumbai

Scleroderma happens when one’s body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. Hence, one sees an overproduction of collagen, causing thickening and hardening of the skin and other connective tissues. However, the exact cause behind this condition is not fully understood yet. Those detected with this condition will notice symptoms such as skin changes, joint pain, digestive issues, lung complications, and damage to internal organs. This condition can be embarrassing, and distressing and lead to low self-esteem. People with this condition will often be stressed, anxious, or depressed.

The different types of it are localized scleroderma, which impacts only one part of the body that is the skin. It won’t spread to other body parts. Systemic sclerosis takes a toll on the respiratory system and digestive tract. Another is diffuse sclerosis which spreads throughout the body and causes thickening of the skin on the chest, abdomen, arms, legs, and even face. CREST (calcinosis, Raynaud phenomenon, esophageal dysmotility, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia) syndrome is another form of scleroderma. The “C” stands for calcinosis, where calcium deposits are seen under the skin on the fingers or other body parts. “R” means Raynaud’s phenomenon, wherein one has a spasm of blood vessels in the fingers or toes because of cold or stress. The “E” is esophageal dysmotility, causing difficulty in swallowing. The “S” is for sclerodactyly, tightening of the skin causing the fingers to bend. “T” for telangiectasia is dilated vessels on the skin of the fingers and face.

The complications of this condition: Scleroderma syndrome (strikes when the immune system damages the glands that tend to produce and control moisture in your body). The other worrisome problems linked to this condition are kidney failure, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary fibrosis, congestive heart failure, and gastrointestinal disease.

The diagnosis: Various blood tests, CT scans, X-rays, endoscopy, pulmonary function test, or a biopsy can be conducted to determine if one is suffering from this condition. The doctor will initiate treatment once the diagnosis is confirmed.

The treatment: One will be advised of creams, moisturizers, immunosuppressants, medication, or phototherapy to deal with the symptoms of this condition. It is better to follow the instructions of an expert and manage his condition to be able to improve your quality of life and do daily activities with ease.

The last word: To prevent this condition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle via balanced nutrition, regular exercise, quitting tobacco and alcohol, and going for regular check-ups with the doctor can prevent this condition.

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