• Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition where the skin becomes thickened and tight leading to contractures. These patients may also have ulcers over their fingers and toes, bluish or purplish discolouration of fingers and toes on cold exposure (raynaud’s phenomenon), pain and stiffness of the joints, swelling of the hands, muscle weakness, breathing difficulty and other symptoms. The symptoms of scleroderma may vary from patient to patient.
  • The word scleroderma is derived from Greek words “sclero” meaning hard and “derma” meaning skin.
  • Depending on the involvement of skin in different areas of the body, internal organ involvement and autoimmune tests, scleroderma can be limited or diffuse disease. The prognosis is different for both these categories.
  • Scleroderma can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the involvement of the organ. The most obvious is problems with skin including tight skin, ulceration, dry and itchy skin. Gastrointestinal symptoms include reflux, swallowing difficulties, constipation or even diarrhoea. Life threatening illness can be caused by involvement of the lungs (interstitial lung disease), heart or kidneys (renal crisis).
  • You should consult your Rheumatologist if you have any of the above symptoms. The symptom of bluish discoloration of hands and feet on exposure to cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon) may precede the development of scleroderma by a few years. Hence it is important to get evaluated early if you have this symptom.
  • Your Rheumatologist will ask questions about your symptoms, examine you and order tests to arrive at a diagnosis and the extent of involvement due to scleroderma.
  • Your Rheumatologist will discuss with you the best available treatment options for your symptoms and organ involvement and the expected treatment outcomes.
  • Simple measures like avoiding cold exposure, keeping warm, keeping the skin moist and injury free, active lifestyle with daily exercise and eating a balanced and healthy diet are important self-care strategies in patients with scleroderma.
  • It is essential to take your medications as prescribed by your Rheumatologist
  • regularly to control your symptoms and disease.
  • Discuss your problems, emotional issues and symptoms with your Rheumatologist during your hospital visit. Take active participation in the management of your health.
  • Joining a support group of patients with scleroderma or other Rheumatological disease is a good platform to exchange views with others and learn more about your disease.

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