June is National Scleroderma Month. So, what is scleroderma?
According to the Scleroderma Foundation, Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Take a look at some of the facts surrounding scleroderma below.
8 Facts About Scleroderma
- It is not contagious, infectious, cancerous, or malignant.
- Symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life threatening.
- It’s estimated that about 300,000 Americans have scleroderma.
- About one third of people with scleroderma have the systemic form of scleroderma.
- Since scleroderma presents with symptoms similar to other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis is difficult.
- The exact cause or causes of scleroderma are still unknown, but scientists and medical researchers are working hard to make those determinations. It is known that scleroderma involves an overproduction of collagen.
- Currently, there is no cure for scleroderma.
- According to the Mayo Clinic, scleroderma affects women more often than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.
Scleroderma symptoms range from person to person, depending on which part of the body it affects. Below are some of the common symptoms associated with scleroderma:
Most people with scleroderma experience hardening and tightening of patches of skin which may be shaped like ovals or straight lines. The number, location and size of these patches may vary.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the earliest signs of scleroderma is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, which may cause numbness, pain, or color changes in fingers and toes.
Besides acid reflux, scleroderma may also cause people to have issues absorbing nutrients due to intestinal problems.
In rare cases, scleroderma may affect the function of the heart, lungs, or kidneys – which can become life threatening.
Types of Scleroderma
At the present time, there are two major classifications of scleroderma, which we’ve outlined below.
Generally, localized scleroderma is relatively mild and is usually found in a few places, such as on the skin or muscles. Rarely does it spread anywhere. The internal organs are usually not affected, and persons with localized scleroderma rarely develop systemic scleroderma.
Systemic Sclerosis (SSc)
This form of scleroderma affects the connective tissue in multiple parts of the body. This form of scleroderma is characterized by a “hardening” of the internal organs, and it can involve everything from your skin to your gastrointestinal tract, other organs, and even your blood vessels and joints.
Within systemic sclerosis, there are two major patterns that the disease can take: Diffuse or Limited.
This form of scleroderma is characterized by a skin thickening. With diffuse scleroderma, there is a heightened risk of developing “sclerosis” or hardening of the internal organs.
With limited scleroderma, skin thickening is not as widespread, typically staying confined to fingers, hands, and face. This type of scleroderma may take years to develop, and it tends to be less severe than diffuse scleroderma.
- Scleroderma Foundation
- Mayo Clinic
- National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases