Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, caused by the overproduction of collagen in your body. (Collagen is the connective tissue that acts as the framework for holding your body together.) Scleroderma means “hard skin”, which is the most common symptom of this condition.
There are two types of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Localized scleroderma is more common and milder as it affects only a few places in the body. In systemic scleroderma, the connective tissue hardens in more places throughout the body—and can potentially affect the lungs, kidneys, joints, muscles, and internal organs as well as the skin.
The symptoms of scleroderma can be different for each person and vary depending on which parts of your body are involved. The most common symptoms are:
Hardening and tightening of patches of your skin
- Your skin can appear shiny because it's so tight and your movement may be restricted
- Your fingers may become very sensitive to cold and change color with cold or emotional stress- Raynaud’s Syndrome
- Your fingers and hands may become stiff and puffy
How scleroderma progresses over time is different for every person. Most people experience tight and swollen fingers in the beginning and may have Raynaud’s Syndrome. For many, it remains mild and does not progress. In some severe cases it may cause stiffening of the joints, heartburn, digestive issues, scarring of the lungs, and kidney problems.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
While scleroderma cannot be cured, there are things that can be done to help. Wearing protective gloves that provide compression and warmth can help lessen swelling and relieve discomfort and pain to make everyday activities a little easier. Medications can also be prescribed to control symptoms and reduce inflammation. You may also benefit from working with physical and occupational therapists, who can provide stretching and exercise programs to improve your function and range of motion.
There are many exceptions to the rules in scleroderma, perhaps more so in other conditions. Since each case is different, it’s very important to discuss your symptoms and concerns with your health care provider.
PROTECTIVE GLOVES THAT CAN HELP