The word “Scleroderma” means thickening of the skin.
The cause of Scleroderma is unknown. It is classified as an Autoimmune Disease (the body is treating some of its own tissue as if it is foreign).
Symptoms of Scleroderma include
- Thickening of hardening of the skin most commonly of the hands, but the skin of the entire body may be involved.
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon – arteries of cold exposed areas as the hands, feet, (also less commonly the nose and ears spasm with cold exposure, resulting in the fingers toes turning white with cold exposure, with warming they become red then blue in color. Ulcerations may form on the fingertips due to lack of circulation.
- Calcinosis – calcium deposits most commonly in the elbows, forearms and fingers
- Esophageal dysmotility – the esophagus (swallowing tube) become thickened similar to the skin, acid flows upwards from the stomach and injures the lining of the esophagus causing heartburn; the esophagus may scar from the acid burn resulting in food sticking in the esophagus
- Telangectasia – formation dilated blood vessels which a most easily seen on the hands or in the mouth
- Sicca Syndrome – dryness of the eyes and mouth
- There may be involvement of Scleroderma in the Kidneys, Liver, Heart, Lungs and Thyroid. When the blood vessels in the lungs are in spasm this results in a condition called “Pulmonary Hypertension”
Treatment includes medications to offset the blood vessel spasm (such as Procardia, Cardizem, and Norvasc); rigorous control of blood pressure necessary. Other important medications use to treat Scleroderma are Cellcept, Cytoxan, Imuran, Methotrexate, and Penicillamine are used to treat the entire disease; there are specific medications for Pulmonary Hypertension.