Scleroderma symptoms

Scleroderma is a group of progressive diseases involving tightening of the skin and the fibers that provide the framework for the body. Localized scleroderma only affects the skin on the body. Systemic scleroderma affects the skin as well as the internal organs. Scleroderma is a very rare disease, affecting approximately only 250 out of one million people in the world. While the disease can be found often in members of the same family, it typically occurs in those with no family history of the disease.

Scleroderma symptoms will vary from patient to patient and depending on which organ systems in the body are affected. Diagnosing the disease can often be very difficult since some of the earlier symptoms are very commonly found in patients without the disease. Raynaud’s phenomenon is one of the most commonly found symptoms of Scleroderma. This condition involves a severe reaction to cold temperatures and/or emotional distress. The small blood vessels in the feet and hands are affected in Raynaud’s phenomenon. The fingers and toes may change colors, become numb or experience extreme pain.

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is also a commonly reported symptom of Scleroderma. Skin changes including swollen hands and fingers, thickening patches of skin on the body but especially on the fingers, tightness around the mouth, hands or face and a shiny appearance to the skin are also common symptoms of the disease.

Localized scleroderma which affects the skin only has very distinguished symptoms. Morphea in which the skin has thickened, oval-shaped patches of purple with white and linear scleroderma which is mostly found in children and produces streaks of hardened skin on the legs, arms or forehead are the most commonly reported symptoms of localized scleroderma. Systemic scleroderma will affect the skin as well as the internal organs and blood vessels. The different types of systemic scleroderma are classified depending on the specific areas of the body or internal organs affected by the disease. Symptoms on the skin are typically noticed first before the internal organs become affected.

There are a number of factors that tend to increase the risk of scleroderma in some patients. Race or ethnicity is the main factor that can raise your risk for this disease. Those of Native-American heritage are much more likely to develop systemic scleroderma as are African-Americans. It is also believed that African-Americans with systemic scleroderma are at a much higher risk of developing severe long-term lung complications from the disease. The risk of developing the disease is also much higher in women than in men. In fact, women are four times more likely to develop both localized and systemic scleroderma than men. Exposure to certain compounds and substances can also increase the risk of developing the disease. Silica dust, paint thinners and many chemotherapy drugs have all been linked to the development of scleroderma.

If you notice any of the symptoms of scleroderma, you should inform your doctor right away. He or she may refer you to a specialist who deals with the treatment of joint diseases. Of course, since the disease has the potential to affect many major organs, you may also be referred to a number of other specialists during treatment if and when you are diagnosed with the disease. You should inform your doctor of all of your symptoms. Be as specific as possible when listing the symptoms that you are experiencing. You may also need to provide your doctor with a list of any medications that you are currently taking. Your doctor will then review your personal and family medical history and may do tests including inspecting your fingers for signs of Raynaud’s phenomenon, blood tests to check for elevated levels of specific antibodies in your system and he or she may also take a tissue sample. This biopsy will be used to check your skin for any abnormalities that may have developed.

Last updated on Nov 11th, 2010 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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