When talking about mysterious, rare and strange diseases, we cannot omit to mention scleroderma. This pathology that can appear in different stages of life, can cause irreversible damage to our body . Throughout this article, we will talk about what scleroderma is, as well as what its symptoms, treatments, risk factors and causes are.
What is scleroderma?
As can be guessed from its name, scleroderma is a disease that mainly affects the skin. However, it can also affect some other organs in the body, as well as blood vessels. This disease is currently considered one of the rarest that exist , being rare.
In addition, the pathology bears a small similarity to the regeneration process of the skin. Since, it is characterized by excessively accumulating tissue . Said tissue hardens over time, forming thick layers. These layers are the cause of a large number of conditions and discomfort for those who suffer from this pathology.
It should be noted that this happens both internally and externally, causing irreparable damage to cells. The worst of all is that this disease is autoimmune , being considered a rheumatic disease.
The funny thing about scleroderma is that it can appear at any time in life. Although the risk factor increases between the ages of 30 to 50 years. In addition, cases of this pathology tend to occur more in women than in men. However, the risk factor remains equally high for both sexes.
Types of scleroderma
There are mainly three types of scleroderma, where each of these affects different parts of the body. Next, we will tell you a little about them so that you can differentiate them.
Also called ‘Scleroderma Morphea’ , this can be considered among the types of scleroderma that exist as the least serious. Localized scleroderma, in most cases affects only the skin area. It should be noted that it usually affects the chest area, as well as the extremities.
However, the possibility that it spreads to other areas of the body, such as:
- The bones.
- The muscles.
Systemic scleroderma can be considered as a chronic course of the disease. Affecting in this case, both the skin, as well as some internal organs of the body, such as the lungs, blood vessels, and kidneys. In addition, it is subdivided into two categories that define how serious it can be. These being the following:
- Diffuse systemic scleroderma.
- Limited systemic scleroderma.
In the first case, the pathology can be quite chronic, affecting in a greater proportion, unlike individuals suffering from limited systemic scleroderma.
Scleroderma where the Raynaud phenomenon occurs
It is also known as Systemic sclerosis without scleroderma, and unlike the previous ones, it only produces internal damage . This means that there are no symptoms or conditions present in the skin area.
Causes of scleroderma
As with a large number of autoimmune diseases, it is speculated that scleroderma appears due to an ‘error’ in our body. We refer to an error, since the organism attacks itself by detecting a false threat . This results in detrimental effects on health and the body as a result rather than a benefit.
However, the exact cause of scleroderma is unknown as of yet. Although, it is suspected about what may be ‘risk factors’. Finding among some of them the following:
- Exposure to silica dust.
- Exposure to polyvinyl chloride.
- Factors related to genetics.
- Factors related to the environment.
The fact that scleroderma can also appear alongside other autoimmune pathologies should not be discounted. When this happens, it is often thought of as an overlap syndrome. Being among some of the autoimmune pathologies that can appear in conjunction with scleroderma, the following:
- Lupus-related diseases
Evolution of the disease
In most cases, scleroderma tends to get worse over time , progressing like any other generative disease. This disease, as it gets worse over time, can trigger conditions, such as:
- Kidney and heart failure.
- Scarring in some internal organs.
- Different types of cancer.
- Difficulties to nourish properly with food.
It should be noted that individuals with localized scleroderma have a better prognosis than those affected by Raynaud’s phenomenon. Let’s not forget that each case of scleroderma is unique. This disease can worsen differently in each patient.
The main warning signs with this disease are usually seen with the accumulation of tissue or collagen in the skin area . However, there are also other types of signs, being some of the most common symptoms of scleroderma, the following:
- Color change in the fingers or toes (usually a whitish or blue color).
- Abnormal changes in skin color
- Hardening of the affected area.
- Difficulty performing movements in the affected area.
- Joint pain and inflammation.
- Diarrhea or constipation .
- Cardiac arrhythmia.
- Constant feeling of exhaustion.
- Abnormal weight loss
As mentioned above, there is a variation of this pathology where there are no symptoms on the skin, directly causing damage internally. This variation of the pathology is known as Scleroderma with Raynaud’s phenomenon . This being more difficult to detect with the naked eye, as it does not present external symptoms.
How can scleroderma be diagnosed?
Being a rare disease that can affect any part of the body, its diagnosis is difficult . However, it can be detected through medical studies depending on the type of scleroderma that is present. Some of the tests that are performed to diagnose scleroderma are the following:
- Blood and urine tests.
- X-ray in the chest area.
- Biopsies of the skin area where the disease occurs.
- Echocardiography and electrocardiogram.
Usually, tests are carried out through a capillaroscopy to detect it. However, in cases where internal organs are affected, endoscopic examinations can be done to confirm the presence of this pathology.
For this, it is advisable to visit a trained rheumatologist who can accurately assess the case of scleroderma.
Treatments for scleroderma
As mentioned before, we are facing an autoimmune disease that until now is incurable. Although a diagnosis in early stages could help considerably to cope with this pathology with less difficulty.
Among some of the treatments that exist to treat scleroderma today, there are mainly the following:
- Drug-based treatments capable of suppressing the effects of the immune system.
- Treatments carried out with stem cells.
- Therapies to avoid thickening of the skin .
It should be noted that treatment can vary considerably depending on the area that is affected by this disease. However, the processes carried out to treat this pathology usually focus on the use of the following drugs:
Medications that serve as immunosuppressants
This type of drug can inhibit some functions of the immune system , considerably reducing its activity. Remember that scleroderma, being an autoimmune disease, causes the body to attack itself. As the activity of the immune system is diminished, the development and degeneration produced by this pathology is delayed.
Medicines that work as vasodilators
These drugs are mainly used in cases where scleroderma with Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs. The drugs used as vasodilators allow better circulation in the blood system. This means that the muscle contractions produced by the disease can be greatly reduced.
Anti Fibrotic Medications
The drugs used with this function are one of the most important in treating scleroderma cases. These prevent excess collagen from being produced . This being the main cause of different conditions produced by this disease.
Let’s not forget that when collagen is produced in excess, layers are formed in the skin that limit the mobility of the joints.
Recommendations to take into account in case of suffering from scleroderma
It should be borne in mind that when suspecting this disease, it is vitally important to see a health professional. Only a properly trained doctor can evaluate your case specifically and indicate the treatment to follow to treat this disease.
There are also some additional recommendations that can be taken into account to improve the quality of life when suffering from this pathology. Being any of these, the following:
Increase your skin care
Since scleroderma is a disease that mainly affects the skin area, it is important to pay special attention to it. Try to keep your skin hydrated regularly, and avoid sun exposure for long periods of time.
Try to keep your joints and muscles moving
In the presence of rheumatic diseases, it is important to try not to lose the mobility of the muscles and joints . For this, it is recommended to practice in a moderate way some exercises where you can stretch your muscles.
It is recommended to see a doctor or rheumatologist who can indicate the types of exercises that you can carry out to combat the effects of this disease.
Avoid products that are harmful to your health as much as possible
It is vital that those who suffer from this disease take maximum care of their health, especially the oral one. It is recommended to avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages, as well as cigarettes and tobacco. Since, these can affect both the health of our mouth, as well as our body.
Don’t eat foods that irritate your stomach
It is recommended to carry out a balanced diet where foods that contain fiber are consumed. Completely discard foods that can irritate your stomach, such as:
- The coffee.
- Foods with high amounts of fat.
- Fizzy drinks
- The chocolate.
Avoid exposing yourself to low temperatures
As is well known, those who suffer from this disease often experience pain and swelling in the extremities, especially in the fingers. Low temperatures can contribute to accentuated pain or swelling caused by this pathology. Try to maintain a suitable temperature in your home. If you go out, try to warm yourself enough.
Try to lead a calm and stress-free lifestyle
High levels of stress as well as emotional imbalance only contribute to worsening the symptoms of this disease. Try to lead a lifestyle where your peace of mind is not usually affected. You can practice meditation exercises for this . Also, it is recommended that you try to talk about the subject with your loved ones.
Drink water regularly
As mentioned before, in the presence of this disease, it is quite important to stay hydrated . Regular consumption of water is quite important for our body. Finding among some of its main benefits, to treat this disease, the following:
- Hydrates our body.
- Purifies the body.
- It reduces the risk of gastric and intestinal complications that can cause this disease.
- It facilitates the ingestion of food.
Attend support groups
As mentioned before, it is important to talk about this with the people around you. There are support groups, where people who suffer from this pathology come seeking to know other cases and expose their experiences. This is a good alternative so that you do not feel alone against the disease and motivate yourself to fight against it.
Don’t forget to get frequent medical checkups
As has been seen, scleroderma is a rare disease, and although there are different risk factors that can cause it, its causes are currently unknown. The prognosis of this pathology can be quite diffuse, so it is recommended to periodically go to the doctor and have the respective routine check-ups.
In this way, you will keep a regular check on your health. And if you suspect the appearance of some type of scleroderma, you can start treatment early that allows you to cope with this disease in the most appropriate way.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.