Scleroderma: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Scleroderma: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment


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THE scleroderma it is an autoimmune infection whose origin is unknown. There is localized and systematic scleroderma. Similar to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in some aspects, scleroderma affects mainly adult women and presents itself in different ways.

  • Definition of scleroderma

    • Diffuse scleroderma

    • Localized scleroderma

    • Plaque scleroderma

    • Systemic scleroderma

  • Scleroderma symptoms

  • Diagnosis of scleroderma

  • Treatment of scleroderma

Definition of scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects, in general, middle-aged women, between 40 and 50 years old. The etymological meaning of this word is “derma dura”, which describes the disease well, characterized by the tightening of the skin. Scleroderma is, in fact, caused by collagen reduction, caused by the presence of antibodies that fight the body’s own cells.

Diffuse scleroderma

Diffuse scleroderma is the most serious form of the disease and is characterized by a thickened skin, especially on the arms, legs, abdomen and face. The patient’s prognosis can be severe if the problem affects the internal organs such as the lungs, heart and intestine. If this happens, the tissue may make the organ’s functioning unfeasible. There is no treatment, but non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids help to reduce symptoms.

Localized scleroderma

If only a single skin tissue is affected, we speak of localized scleroderma. It is characterized by white skin lesions, which can take the form of plaques, lines or small marks on different parts of the body. The diagnosis is obtained by a histological examination. Local cortisone in cream or ointment, vitamin E and avocado oil can alleviate the problem.

Plaque scleroderma

Plaque scleroderma is also a localized form. It is characterized by the formation of round or oval plates in white color in different parts of the body. Its size and number vary according to the patient. They can persist for a few years before they disappear, leaving small scars. The indicated treatment is based on local cortisone.

Systemic scleroderma

This disease can also reach deep tissues, such as internal organs, causing systemic scleroderma. It is characterized as the first symptom of Raynaud’s syndrome, which leaves the fingers extremely cold. There may also be limited or diffuse forms. Treatment based on medications, such as long-term cortisone, is done according to the symptoms.

Scleroderma symptoms

The symptoms of scleroderma are diverse and multiply during the course of the disease. Cases are distinguished according to symptoms. Localized scleroderma, for example, affects only the skin, usually the hands and face, making it harder. Acro-sclerosis or sclerodactyly, also presented as Raynaud’s syndrome, affects only the fingers, causing disturbances in circulation, with pain and cold extremities. The evolution of generalized or systemic scleroderma, which affects several organs, can have different symptoms.

Diagnosis of scleroderma

If scleroderma is suspected, a blood test may be necessary to reveal the presence of autoantibodies. Other tests also show the microscopic vessels of the skin, as well as the skin biopsy, which confirms the diagnosis.

Treatment of scleroderma

There is no treatment to eliminate this disease. Some symptoms, however, can be treated with various medications, such as immunosuppressants or cortisone. Some symptomatic approaches are essential to improve the prognosis of the disease. They can be supplemented by physical therapy to preserve joint mobility.

In parallel, there are other preventive measures, such as quitting smoking, which offers an improvement in symptoms. Controlling weight and exercising regularly also help, in addition to protecting the skin, which is weakened by the disease, both in the cold and in the sun.

Photo: © sathit – Shutterstock.com

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