What Is Scleroderma?

What is scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that acts as a connective tissue disorder causing a thickening or hardening of the body tissues.

Scleroderma is a rare autoimmune disease that acts as a connective tissue disorder. However, unlike other connective tissue disorders, there is a thickening and hardening of the skin. This thickening can take place in various parts of the body, including internal organs. Scleroderma seems to appear most frequently in women ages 30-60.

There are many aspects and symptoms associated with this disease which can make it difficult to treat, and doctors are still unsure what causes scleroderma. Some of the signs of this disease include:

- hands, toes, and other parts of the body turning blue or red when cold

- pulmonary hypertension

- gastrointestinal problems

- problems swallowing food

- diarrhea and abdominal cramps

- pain and burning in body tissues

- inflammation of the lungs

- change in skin color

- digital ulcers and sores

- difficulty maintaining body hear

Controlling scleroderma is difficult and mostly involves various drug therapies. To help with the problem maintain body heat, a patient may be prescribed Altace, Trental, or Procardia XL. Procardia XL can also be prescribed for pulmonary problems, and in worse cases, oxygen. For gastrointestinal problems, simple things can help such as Tums and Maalox along with diet modification. However, prescriptions may be given for more severe symptoms.

When the skin enters the phase where it begins to tighten, physical therapy becomes extremely important. Without it, the skin can become so tight it becomes difficult to move. This can cause the skin to break open, especially on the finger, and may even make oral hygiene difficult, as the mouth becomes difficult to open fully. Unfortunately, there are no therapies or drugs available to prevent this tightening from occurring.

While this disease is disheartening to many who suffer from it, researchers are well under way to finding a cure. It is believed by some that we should see a cure within the next decade. It may seem a long way off, but it is still a source of hope.

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