What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a rare and complex condition that causes hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. It occurs due to overproduction of the protein called collagen in the skin tissues. Scleroderma is also known as systemic sclerosis (SS). It can affect many parts of the body, such as the skin, muscles, joints, lungs, heart, kidneys, digestive tract, and blood vessels. It can cause various symptoms and complications, depending on the type and severity of the disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of Scleroderma?
The common signs of scleroderma are:
- Abnormally dark or light skin
- Change in color of the fingers and toes from exposure to heat or cold
- Hardening of the skin
- Shiny hands and forearms
- Small white lumps beneath the skin’s surface
- Thickening of the skin
- Tight facial skin
- Ulcerations on the fingers or toes
What are the causes of Scleroderma?
When your body produces and accumulates an over abundance of collagen, scleroderma occurs. Doctors are not sure what causes this overproduction, but there appears to be a connection with the body’s immune system. Patients can develop localized scleroderma, which only affects the skin or systemic scleroderma, which impacts the skin and other organs, such as the gallbladder, heart, intestine, kidneys and lungs.
What are the different types of Scleroderma?
There are two main types of scleroderma: Localized and Systemic
Localized Scleroderma affects only the skin and nearby tissues, and sometimes the muscle below. It does not affect the internal organs. There are two types of localized scleroderma: morphea and linear. Morphea causes reddish patches of skin that thicken into firm oval-shaped areas. Linear scleroderma causes a single line or band of thickened, abnormally colored skin, usually on an arm, leg, or forehead. Systemic scleroderma affects the skin as well as the blood vessels and major organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. It can cause inflammation, fibrosis, and atrophy of these tissues. There are two types of systemic scleroderma: limited and diffuse.
Limited Scleroderma mainly affects the skin of the fingers, hands, face, lower arms, and legs. It can also cause problems with the esophagus, lungs, and heart. Limited scleroderma is sometimes associated with a group of symptoms known as CREST syndrome, which stands for calcinosis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, esophageal dysfunction, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia. Diffuse scleroderma affects large areas of the skin and can involve any of the internal organs. It can cause rapid skin thickening and severe organ damage.
What treatments are available at the dermatologist for Scleroderma?
No treatment can cure scleroderma, but medication can help relieve the symptoms, prevent complications and slow down the progression of the disease. Treatment may include:
- Blood pressure medications to help kidney and lung function
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Surgical intervention
FAQ About Scleroderma
How is scleroderma diagnosed?
Scleroderma can be difficult to diagnose because it affects many areas of the body and has similar symptoms to other diseases. The diagnosis is based on a combination of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, skin biopsy, and imaging tests.
Who gets scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a rare disease that affects fewer than half a million people in the United States. Some factors that may increase the risk of developing scleroderma include:
- Gender: women are more likely than men to get scleroderma.
- Age: the most common age to develop scleroderma is between 35 and 50 years old.
- Ethnicity: Choctaw Native Americans and African Americans are more likely to be affected by scleroderma than other groups.
- Family history: having a close relative with scleroderma may increase the chance of getting it
Is scleroderma contagious?
No, scleroderma is not contagious. It cannot be spread from one person to another by contact or exposure.
Is scleroderma hereditary?
Scleroderma is not inherited in a simple way, but it may have a genetic component. Some genes may make a person more susceptible to developing scleroderma, but they are not enough to cause the disease by themselves. Other factors, such as environmental triggers or infections, may also play a role in triggering scleroderma in genetically predisposed individuals.
Is there a dermatologist near me in Denver that offers treatment for scleroderma?
Yes. At our Denver dermatology office we offer treatment for scleroderma to patients from Denver and the surrounding area. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.