What is Scleroderma? Learn About this Autoimmune Disease Symptoms & Treatment
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Scleroderma: An Autoimmune Disease

written by: Rishi Prakash • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 11/4/2010

What is Scleroderma? Read this article and know more about the disease, symptoms and treatment measures.

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    What is Scleroderma?

    Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disease that targets the connective tissues found in skin, muscles and body organs. Since the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system, it leads to thickness and firmness of the targeted areas. This disease is sometimes also referred to as systemic sclerosis when it diffuses all over the body.

    The cause of scleroderma is not yet known; however, researchers believe that defective genes might be involved, though environmental factors also play a crucial role in causing the disease. All these factors trigger the immune system, causing injury to body tissues and the formation of scar and hard skin. Inheritance does play a role although how bit a role is not well known. Other autoimmune diseases can occur in families with scleroderma in their history. Women are more susceptible to this disease than men.

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    Types of Scleroderma

    Scleroderma can be categorized based on the severity and the location of the skin targeted. Two major categories include diffuse and limited. In the case of diffused or systemic scleroderma, the disease is not confined to a particular region; rather, it diffuses all over the body and results in thickening of face skin, chest, back, and abdomen that rapidly progresses to hardening. However, body organs such as esophagus, lungs, bowels, heart and kidneys also are affected.

    The limited form of scleroderma is confined to a particular region such as face and fingers. As compared to the diffused form, the symptoms progress very slowly.

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    Symptoms of Scleroderma

    Common symptoms include skin inflammation such as redness of skin, swelling, and itching that finally leads to hardening of the skin. The most common body regions that are affected are fingers, feet, face, and neck. In severe cases, the skin thickening makes the joints tight and painful. In many cases, small deposits of calcium may be seen under the skin. Swallowing becomes difficult as the muscles in the gullet region become thickened. If the problem occurs in the intestinal region, patients experience diarrhea, bloating, and constipation problems.

    It has also been revealed that scleroderma patients are at high risk of developing high blood pressure. Therefore, it is imperative to check blood pressure regularly. Patients also need to pay careful attention to a diet prescribed by their doctor. Regular physical activity is also used to treat the condition.

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    Scleroderma Treatment

    Since scleroderma is a complex disease, it involves many complications at a time. However, treatments are available based on a particular symptom. Some treatments are done to decrease the activity of the immune system. Some anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken as per the doctors’ recommendation. In addition, diet rich in selenium and vitamins A, C, and E are effective in reducing inflammation.

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