Most people who pay attention to their skin understand the symptoms and effects of common conditions like acne, eczema, and more. However, serious yet less known conditions like scleroderma can often slip by people until they are properly diagnosed by an experienced dermatologist. This hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues affects thousands every year but is far less commonly known, despite its serious effects on health and appearance.
At West Dermatology, our expert and board-certified dermatologists in Arizona, Nevada, and California can help diagnose and manage scleroderma through advanced dermatology treatments tailored to your individual needs. With offices in major southwest US cities (including Hillcrest, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and others), West Dermatology are your neighborhood dermatology experts. Contact us online today to learn more about scleroderma or any other dermatological condition.
What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma can be categorized as a localized or widespread disease of the connective tissue. The localized condition is distinguished by fibrosis (scar tissue of the skin), which eventually hardens and thickens. Additionally, there are blood vessel problems, inflammation, and spontaneous scarring. Widespread sclerosis is a systemic problem that also affects internal organs.
Symptoms and Signs
Scleroderma symptoms vary because it can involve various parts of the body. It also depends on which type of scleroderma and how much external and/or internal involvement there is. The following are brief descriptions of common scleroderma symptoms in various areas of the body.
- Skin – Your skin reddens and gets tender, swollen, and/or sore, and you have a lot of itching. This can lead to tightening or hardening of your skin and sometimes even decreased range of motion in the affected area. These scleroderma symptoms can arise anywhere, but they seem to be most common on your face, neck, fingers, and feet.
- Esophagus – You experience this as heartburn, as stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. This could scar your esophagus, giving you chest pains and making swallowing difficult.
- Blood Vessels – Particularly affected are the minute capillaries in the tips of your fingers and toes, where they can spasm when subjected to cold. This can cause the affected fingers or toes to turn red, blue, and/or white. Tiny capillaries in the face, lips, and mouth can form red spots called telangiectasias, which has been reported to pose a serious bleeding risk, although it’s quite uncommon.
- Elevated Blood Pressure – This scleroderma symptom is serious and can lead to kidney damage. Watch for symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. It’s imperative to monitor and control your blood pressure.
- Lungs – Your lungs can become inflamed and lead to scarring and shortness of breath, especially after exercise or other physical action.
- Heart – You could experience an irregular heartbeat, inflammation, and unusual cardiac electric activity, all of which could lead to muscle damage in your heart.
- Bowel – Scleroderma symptoms include constipation, cramping, or diarrhea.
If you experience any of these scleroderma symptoms, especially in conjunction with one or more of the others, contact West Dermatology as soon as possible.
Causes and Treatment Options
Although there is no known cause, there is evidence of genetic and environmental factors, which stimulates the immune system into overdrive. This can injure tissue and blood vessels and cause scarring and excess collagen, though the exact nature of the interconnectedness is unclear.
As for scleroderma treatment, no single medication is universally effective. There is also no known prevention or diet that can help decrease your risk of getting scleroderma. What is known is that all scleroderma treatment is administered on a case-by-case basis, and no one with this disease should smoke. Some patients have only a mild case that requires no treatment while other have a relentless, severe case that sometimes causes death.
For those with an affliction of the skin, colchicine can alleviate inflammation and tenderness while skin lotions such as Lubriderm are effective. For blood pressure, aggressive scleroderma treatment with blood pressure medication can help you avoid kidney failure. The ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor drugs, such as lisinopril, are effective.
For blood vessels, regular aspirin is used to ward off tiny blood clots in your fingers. If your case is stronger, artery-opening medications, such as diltiazem (Cardizem), or topical nitroglycerin on your affected extremity have proven effective. The capillaries on your face, the telangiectasias, are often treated with laser therapy. For irritation of your esophagus, regular heartburn medicine such as omeprazole (Prilosec) can help.
For bowel problems, common medications used for constipation or diarrhea, such as tetracycline or erythromycin, have proven effective, as has drinking more fluids. Medicines for suppressing your rampant immune system, such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex or Trexall), can be utilized as can prednisone (Deltasone, Liquid Pred).
Currently, an effective scleroderma treatment lung disease has yet to be found, although it is actively being researched.
Since there are a variety of scleroderma treatments, and each medication or combination of them can only be prescribed after expert examination and diagnosis. The experts at West Dermatology can determine which scleroderma treatment option(s) will work best for you. Learn more about scleroderma treatment at WebMD.com.
Find Expert Treatment for Scleroderma
Scleroderma does not affect everyone the same, and the symptoms can cover a wide range. It can be mild and no more than annoying for some people while for others, it can become life-threatening. If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms, don’t let it go unabated. Talk to us about your particular symptoms and the circumstances surrounding your condition.
Don’t hesitate to schedule a customized scleroderma treatment consultation at West Dermatology today to get the help that you need. We have locations in Arizona, Nevada, and California, including cities such as Hillcrest, San Diego, Yuma, Mesa, Casa Grande, and more.
Next, read about Vitiligo.