What Is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease which is shown by hardening or sclerosis most commonly in the skin but could also show in other organs. Being an autoimmune disease, it happens when the body’s tissues are being attacked by its own immune system. The most visible sign of scleroderma is the formation of scar tissue in the skin or in the affected area which would lead to having that area being much firmer and thicker. When scleroderma happens to different parts of the body all at the same time, it could be referred to as systematic sclerosis.
Systematic sclerosis can be fatal as it could result to kidney, heart, intestinal or lung damage. The other form of sclerosis which is known as morphea would tend not to be fatal but could cripple and affected individual.
What Causes It?
As of now, there is no known cause for scleroderma. Some would say that genes would play a heavy role and others would say that it is more environmental than it is genetic. Since genes are said to play a role in this, inheritance also has its part therefore, it would not be unusual to find other relatives of a scleroderma patient to be later on affected with it. Scleroderma also occurs more in females than it does on males.
Although there is no definite cause of scleroderma, there are various theories that can be relied on in basis of scleroderma treatment. Since it is so, every treatment for scleroderma is patient specific and are only made to alleviate a patient for symptoms like relief from pain, cure for hardening skin and other specific symptoms. Hardening of the skin has been treated many times successfully with the use of PUVA, d-penicllamine and cyclosporine.
How Do You Know You Have It?
Symptoms of scleroderma are rather unique and you would know immediately if you have it if some of the symptoms would show. If you have scar tissues couple with pain on some parts of your skin most commonly being the knees and elbows then it is mostly sure that you have scleroderma. Take note that this does not develop immediately but rather over time, if you have it in some parts of the skin, it could still spread or develop into another illness.
If you show any symptoms of it, then you should see your doctor immediately to get diagnosed. The diagnosis of this disease is based on clinical findings of the illness. Most likely, your doctor would have you undergo a blood test to see how your antibodies are affecting you. Other tests would include gastrointestinal tests to see how bowel movement is, lung function testing, x-rays, and test to see how the heart is doing.
Since scleroderma has no known cause, treatment for it is aimed towards relieving a patient of specific symptoms rather than in attempt to entirely relieve the patient for scleroderma. Being that, a patient who has it is some organs would be treated only to relieve him or her from the symptoms it would bring about.
Since scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, some of the most common approaches for it would involve the use of immunosuppressive agents such as azathioprene, mycophenolate and methotrexate. As for patients whose lungs would get involved, they could benefit from oxygen therapy which could relieve them from shortness of breath and increase blood oxygen level of which they are most likely deprived of.