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Scleroderma and Gastrointestinal Conditions

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Scleroderma related image Photo: Getty Images

Systemic scleroderma patients often experience gastrointestinal conditions among other discomforts, especially if the disease has affected the digestive system or some of its organs. They are often victims to acid reflux, swallowing difficulties, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers of the stomach, etc. Here are tips that may prove helpful in bringing symptomatic relief:

1. Acid reflux due to reduced esophageal motility:
Usually, swallowing is done automatically after chewing and food is transported to the stomach, but the coordination of the food pipe muscles at the time of contraction (that pushes the food down) is challenged in those suffering from scleroderma, which can make swallowing difficult. As a result the patient may experience heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. They may also develop a persistent hoarse voice, suffer from regurgitation of food, mouth ulcers or have an acid taste in the mouth. To manage the symptoms of GERD, patients are advised to try both lifestyle changes and medication. The treatment is basically aimed at increasing the motility of the gut and decreasing the production of acid.

• Lifestyle changes:
o Reduce intake of acidic foods such as citrus fruits as well as caffeine, soda drinks, fatty foods and those with pH values below 6
o Eat and small frequent meals
o Drink fluids 2 hours before bedtime and no later
o Reduce smoking
o Keep the head of the bed elevated by 6 to 8 inches
• Medications (check dosages, frequency, duration with your doctor):
o Over-the-counter medicines such as those with ranitidine hydrochloride or famotidine help in reducing acidity temporarily
o Prokinetic medicines will aid in improving gut motility
o Chemcials such as metaclopromide, erythromycin, and octreotide promote gut motility and tackle swallowing difficulties
(Source: Scleroderma Foundation; Article Title: Gastrointestinal Involvement; Report Tile: Digestive System Invovlment in Scleroderma; Author: Dinesh Khanna,MD,MSc, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of California, Los Angeles; URL: http://www.scleroderma.org/medical/gastro_articles/khanna_2011.shtm)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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