Scleroderma is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder. Roughly 300,000 people in the United States suffer from the condition. This chronic connective tissue disease is often the result of an over-production of collagen in the skin and other organs. Scleroderma usually appears in people between the ages of 25 and 55, and women get scleroderma more often than men. For most people, the disease worsens slowly over years. If you’re having trouble managing scleroderma symptoms, contact your dermatologist for personalized treatment options.
There are two types of scleroderma: localized scleroderma, which involves only the skin, and systemic scleroderma, which involves the skin and other organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, intestine and gallbladder. Typical symptoms of the skin include skin hardening, skin that is abnormally dark or light, skin thickening, shiny hands and forearms, small white lumps beneath the skin’s surface, tight facial skin, ulcerations on the fingers or toes, and change in color of the fingers and toes from exposure to heat or cold. Other symptoms can impact bones, muscles, lungs, and the digestive tract. Additionally, people with the conditions may experience a dry cough, diarrhea, constipation, difficulty swallowing, and esophageal reflux.
Scleroderma symptoms manifest differently in different people, so if you think you may have this condition, contact your dermatologist. They will be able to provide a formal diagnosis and recommend personalized treatment options.
Common Scleroderma Risk Factors
Scleroderma can be difficult to diagnose, which means those who think they have the condition should assess whether the fall into any risk factor categories. Those who have an increased chance of developing scleroderma include the following.
- Being African-American
- Being Native American
- Having exposure to silica dust and organic solvents
- Using some types of chemotherapy drugs, like Bleomycin
- Being female
There are no treatments for this condition. Rather, scleroderma treatments focus on mitigating symptoms. Treatment strategies consider the symptoms a person is experiencing. Generalized symptom treatment will often involve corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Depending on the symptoms you are experiencing, scleroderma treatment may also involve blood pressure medication, interventions to aid breathing, physical therapy, light therapy, and nitroglycerin ointment for localized treatment.
When to See a Doctor for Scleroderma
A scleroderma diagnosis will likely require a combination of physical exams, blood tests, chest X-rays, a urinalysis, a CT scan of the lungs, and skin biopsies. All of these must be performed in a medical setting. If you think you have this condition, schedule an appointment with one of our medical dermatologists. We can perform the tests necessary to confirm your diagnosis.
Scleroderma treatment has evolved significantly in the past 30 years, and although there is no cure, treatments have become very effective for managing symptoms. However, it is important to remember that this can be a dangerous condition; without symptom mitigation, complications are likely to occur. Visiting a dermatologist at the onset of symptoms can provide a better prognosis.
If you’re interested in learning about how the Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois can address your symptoms, contact us to set up an appointment.