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What is Scleroderma?

By on July 7, 2012 in Health with 0 Comments

 

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a chronic disease that affects the skin and, in some people, may also affect internal organs. Scleroderma causes the body to produce too much collagen. Collagen is a protein which consists of connective tissues such as skin. Too much collagen can cause the skin to stretch, harden and thicken. It can also cause damage to internal organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys.

There are 2 types of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Localized scleroderma affects only the skin. Systemic scleroderma affects the blood vessels and internal organs, besides the skin.

Who can have scleroderma?

Anyone can have scleroderma, but women are more likely to develop it. Systemic scleroderma is more common in African Americans and some Native Americans.

What is the cause of scleroderma?

Doctors do not know what the cause of scleroderma is. It is an autoimmune disease. Normally, antibodies produced by the immune system helps protect the body from viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances. If you have an autoimmune disease, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the tissues and organs.

How can my doctor determine if I have scleroderma?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Perform a physical exam and pay attention to changes in skin appearance. Your doctor may want to extract a tiny sample of skin (biopsy) for examination under a microscope. He may also order a blood test to detect antibodies that suggest scleroderma or other tests to see if any internal organ has been affected.

How is scleroderma treated?

There is no cure for scleroderma. Localized scleroderma sometimes goes away by itself. The treatment usually focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing further damage to the skin and organs. Your doctor will choose the right treatment for you based on your symptoms. If scleroderma is causing damage to internal organs, your doctor may work with other specialists to treat your condition. For example, if scleroderma is affecting your heart, your doctor may want to work closely with a cardiologist.

It is also possible that your doctor may recommend physical and occupational therapy to help manage the pain.

Sometimes, cosmetic surgery can help minimize the effects of scleroderma skin.

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