SCLERODERMA is a condition that results in hard, thickened areas of skin.

Although it is relatively uncommon, it can sometimes cause problems with internal organs and blood vessels in the most severe cases.

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is caused by the immune system attacking the connective tissue under the skin and around internal organs and blood vessels.

It is the result ofan overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues. 

This causes the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues.

There are several different types of scleroderma that can vary in severity.

Some types are relatively mild and may eventually improve on their own, while others can lead to severe and life-threatening problems.

There's no cure for scleroderma, but most people with the condition can lead a full, productive life.

It affects women more than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.

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What are the symptoms of scleroderma disease?

The specific symptoms and the way scleroderma appears depend on the type of scleroderma, John Hopkins Medicine reports.

However, the majority of people with scleroderma will see changes to their skin, typically in the form of body areas that harden and tighten – sometimes appearing shiny.

Scleroderma can affect all areas of the body and appear as ovals or straight lines.

Mild versions of the condition can occasionally affect underlying bone and muscle and also restrict the ability to move.

In more severe cases, called systemic scleroderma, the condition can affect the internal organs as well as the skin.

It often starts as Raynaud's, signs of which include:

  • pain
  • numbness
  • pins and needles
  • difficulty moving the affected area

Then other symptoms kick in:

  • poor circulation in fingers and toes
  • thickening of the skin on hands, feet and face
  • red spots on the skin
  • hard lumps under the skin
  • heartburn
  • swallowing issues

Diffuse systemic sclerosis will also result in:

  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • joint pain and stiffness
  • breathlessness
  • high blood pressure
  • hypertension

What treatment can you get for scleroderma?

The symptoms of scleroderma can usually be controlled by a range of different treatments.

Common treatments include:

  • Medication to improve circulation
  • Medicines that slow the progression of the condition
  • Steroids to relieve joint and muscle problems
  • Moisturising affected areas of skin to help keep it supple and relieve itchiness
  • Various medicines to control other symptoms (such as pain, heartburn and high blood pressure)
  • Forms of physiotherapy to ease muscle tightness

In cases where symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed.

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