June 18, 2024

Scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is a group of rare autoimmune diseases that lead to the hardening and tightening of the skin and other connective tissues in the body. Here are some key points about scleroderma:

  1. Symptoms:
    • The symptoms of scleroderma vary depending on the affected body part. Common symptoms include:
      • Skin Changes:
        • Hardening and tightening of patches of skin.
        • Shiny skin.
        • Restricted movement due to skin hardness.
        • Hair loss.
        • White lumps under the skin (due to calcium deposition).
        • Exaggerated responses to cold temperatures and emotional stress.
      • Fingers and Toes:
        • Numbness and pain.
        • Changes in color.
      • Digestive System:
        • Acid reflux.
        • Restricted movement of food through the digestive tract.
        • Malnutrition.
      • Other organs (such as heart, lungs, and kidneys) can also be affected.
  2. Causes:
  3. Complications:
    • Complications from scleroderma can range from mild to severe and include:
      • Pitting or ulceration of fingertips due to reduced blood supply.
      • Gangrene and amputation of fingertips in severe cases.
      • Breathing difficulty due to scarring of lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis).
      • Pulmonary hypertension.
      • Kidney problems (increased protein levels in urine and renal failure).
      • Scarring of heart tissues.
      • Arrhythmias and congestive heart failure.
      • Increased blood pressure.
      • Dental decay.
      • Constipation and/or diarrhea.
      • Sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
  4. Treatment:
    • There is no cure for scleroderma, but treatments aim to manage symptoms.
    • Medications may include:
      • Blood pressure medications (e.g., Lisinopril) to dilate blood vessels.
      • Immune suppressants (e.g., Cyclophosphamide, Prednisone) to reduce immune reactions.
      • Stomach acid suppressants (e.g., Omeprazole) to manage acid reflux.
      • Antibiotics (oral or topical) to treat infections.
      • Vaccinations (e.g., influenza trivalent vaccine) to prevent infections.
      • Analgesics (e.g., aspirin) for pain management.
  5. Self-Care:
    • Regular exercise to maintain flexibility.
    • Avoiding foods that trigger heartburn or reflux.
    • Staying warm.
    • Seeking emotional support.
    • Connecting with family.
    • Quitting smoking and alcohol

Hospitalization for scleroderma patients can occur due to various factors related to the disease. Here are some reasons that might lead to hospitalization:

  1. Digital Ulcers: Patients with digital ulcers are at a significantly higher risk of acute hospitalization. These ulcers can cause severe pain, infection, and impaired blood flow, necessitating medical attention.
  2. Cardiac Complications: Scleroderma can affect the heart, leading to conditions such as impaired left heart ventricle function. These cardiac issues may require hospitalization for monitoring and treatment.
  3. Pulmonary Fibrosis: Scarring of lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis) can cause breathing difficulties. Severe cases may necessitate hospital care.
  4. Kidney Problems: Scleroderma can impact kidney function, leading to increased protein levels in urine and even renal failure. Hospitalization may be necessary for managing kidney complications.
  5. Heart Tissue Scarring: Scarring of heart tissues can result in arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and increased blood pressure, requiring hospital intervention.
  6. Severe Skin Issues: While skin problems associated with scleroderma may resolve on their own in some cases, severe skin manifestations (such as gangrene) may lead to hospitalization.

Remember that routine tests, early detection, and timely treatment are crucial for managing scleroderma and preventing severe complications. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms related to scleroderma, seeking medical attention promptly is essential!

Blog Author: Dr. Sandra Guidry

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