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Scleroderma: The Autoimmune Disease

 Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects the connective tissue of skin, internal organs and muscles. In this the immune system that is supposed to protect the body attacks it instead. There are inflammation and scarring of the skin that leave it thickened along with the weakening of the muscle and finally to damage the organs. It is not certain the cause of the disease, but it seems that some genes are the cause of the changes that happen on the body with the progress of the disease.

 Scleroderma is mainly found in persons as one nears the age of 50. The disease is mostly found in women than men. There is too much deposits of collagen in the skin and other organs. The localized type are not fatal whereas the generalized one can become fatal if the damage of the heart, lung, intestinal and kidney due to autoimmune disease are not checked.

Cause of Scleroderma

The cause of having the disease is not clear. There seems to be a familial tendency towards autoimmune disease. It is suspected that the existence of micro-chimerism, which are fetal cells that are moving in maternal blood which triggers an immune reaction as the body finds it a foreign material.

 Types of Scleroderma

Scleroderma are found in three major forms, the diffuse, limited or CREST syndrome and morphea / linear. Both the diffuse and limited form of Scleroderma is systemic disease but the linear/morphea can be seen in a localized form on the skin.

Symptoms of Scleroderma

Scleroderma occurs in many forms but the main two are localized scleroderma and systemic sclerosis. Localized scleroderma is seen on the skin while systemic sclerosis affects the internal organs. The first sign of the disease is puffiness of the skin which makes it difficult to do the simplest task. With the passage of time, the joints are also made tight and the person fees uncomfortable. One needs to use regular moisture and also finger exercise to keep the skin good and also the joints flexible. The patient may find small deposits of calcium below the skin which shows as small red spots. The skin also gets itchy.

The patient finds it difficult to swallow as the muscles in the gullet are thickened and rigid. Sometimes, acid reflux occurs, that makes the gullet to inflame and make swallowing painful and difficult. If Scleroderma affects other parts of intestines, the patient feels diarrhea, constipation and bloating. There are occasional leakages of bowels.

Scleroderma Treatment

The disease is diagnosed by clinical suspicion to find the presence of auto-antibodies. Sometimes, biopsy could be resorted to know the cause of the disease.

 In spite of having no treatment of the disease, there are many ways to overcome the ills of Scleroderma. There are drugs that modify the disease and reverse or at least slow the cause for the damage on the body. These medicines are used to calm down the immune system that has become overactive and help in better blood circulation. This way, the person can lead a normal life. As the disease affects each person in a different way, the treatment for them is also different as and when they happen. That means, there are acid suppressant drugs for those with having acid reflux and gullet inflammation while anti-hypertensive drugs are used for high blood pressure. For those having lung inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs are used. There are drugs which soften the skin and also reduce inflammation. There are some cases where the patient benefits from exposing him or her to heat.

The Scleroderma patients should take lots of selenium as well as Vitamins A, C, E that as antioxidants reduce inflammation. One should take regular exercise and should not smoke to protect the heart.


Scleroderma patients should have regular lung tests to find its capacity if they find any breathing problems. This is done to find if the blood flow through the lungs are poor which means that the lungs are not functioning to its full capacity. OF the flow of blood through the lungs is poor, the heart will come under pressure. Hence, there must be regular heart tests as well to find whether it is working under strain. Knowing these informations, the doctor can prescribe appropriate medicines to the patient.


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