Lifestyle Changes to Manage Scleroderma
A number of lifestyle changes can help address specific symptoms of scleroderma.
General Guidelines for Managing Scleroderma
Address Raynaud’s Phenomenon
If you also have Raynaud’s phenomenon
- Dress warmly.
- Wear gloves and extra socks.
- Avoid exposure to cold, including air conditioning.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking will make your symptoms worse because it causes blood vessels to become even narrower.
Get advice from your doctor about starting an appropriate exercise program to help you continue your daily activities. Learn facial exercises to decrease stiffness of the face and mask-like appearance. Include exercises that help you maintain the range of motion in your joints. Ask your doctor if a consultation with a physical or occupational therapist may help in creating the right program for you.
Improve Your Skin’s Health
- Don’t take hot baths or showers because hot water will dry out your skin.
- Put on skin lotions frequently, especially after bathing or showering.
- Always apply sunscreen before you go outside, even on cloudy days.
- Keep the air in your home moist by using humidifiers, especially in the winter.
- Exercise regularly to improve blood circulation and flexibility.
- Avoid exposure to harsh household chemicals, cleaners, and soaps.
Decrease Gastrointestinal Problems
Tips for reducing gastrointestinal symptoms include:
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeine, all of which often irritate your stomach.
- Eat small, frequent meals.
- If you have heartburn at night, elevate the head of your bed.
- Don’t eat right before bedtime.
- Dental problems are common in people with scleroderma, so be sure to have regular dental checkups and to brush and floss regularly.
Some people with scleroderma find themselves becoming depressed and anxious. Consider finding a support group where you can meet other people who have learned to cope with the challenges of scleroderma. Sharing your own struggles and triumphs, and learning from the struggles and triumphs of others can be very helpful.
When to Contact Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if:
- Symptoms become worse
- New symptoms arise
- Depression or anxiety is interfering with your relationships, your ability to function normally, or your ability to enjoy life
Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 15th ed. McGraw-Hill; 2001.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Scleroderma Foundation website. Available at: http://www.scleroderma.org/ .
Last reviewed August 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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