It is most likely that you have never heard of scleroderma unless you or a loved one has been diagnosed. Scleroderma is defined as an auto-immune disease that affects the connective tissue. One of the most visible symptoms is hardening of skin.
Facts About Scleroderma
According to the Scleroderma Foundation there are a number of facts that should be brought to the world’s attention.
- An Estimated 300,000 Americans have scleroderma
- It is not contagious nor infectious
- Women are at a higher risk than men at a ratio of 4 to 1
- No cure is currently available; however, treatment of the symptoms can help reduce the severity of the disease
- The sooner a person is diagnosed with scleroderma the better; as treatment can begin immediately
- It is very hard to diagnose and is generally diagnosed by a rheumatologist and/or dermatologist working together
- Diagnosis commonly begins with blood tests at the onset of the disease
- Diagnosis is done with a series of tests, depending on which organs are affected by the disease, so all testing is not the same on each person
- Scleroderma affects both children and adults – most children tend to get localized scleroderma while systemic scleroderma more commonly affects adults
- The most common age of onset is between the ages of 25-55; however scleroderma has been diagnosed as young as infancy and those who are elderly
Symptoms and Treatment of Scleroderma
As mentioned before, symptoms of scleroderma vary from patient to patient. While many who have the disease will experience the same symptoms; many will also have symptoms that are common only to them.
Remember that this list of common symptoms is not all inclusive, nor does every person who has scleroderma have these particular symptoms; however, the first two symptoms are always present.
- Hardening of the skin
- Increased production of collagen
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
- White lumps underneath the skin
- Loss of hair
- Joint pain
- Stomach problems, especially after meals (these could include diarrhea, bloating, reflux)
- Difficulties swallowing
While this list are some of the common symptoms of various types of scleroderma they are only a few of symptoms that one can have. Because there is no cure for the disease itself, the symptoms of the disease are treated in order to help with the pains and symptoms the disease.
As an auto immune disease, scleroderma can make life very difficult. If you or someone you know has this disease there’s no reason to live life in a nursing facility when there are options that can keep you in your own home.
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