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Scleroderma: A Skin Disease That Goes Deeper

By HERWriter
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Scleroderma is an autoimmune connective tissue disorder that causes excess collagen to form. People with scleroderma may develop thickened hard skin anywhere on their body. The skin appears shiny, loses hair and may darken. It is especially difficult to have scleroderma on one’s face or hands, two of the more common sites, as the condition is so visible for others to see.

Approximately 300,000 people have scleroderma here in the U.S. and it affects women three times as often as men. The cause is unknown. It can appear at any age but frequently develops in people between 30 to 50 years old. Scleroderma is not contagious though studies indicate there may be some genetic influence.

There are two forms of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Localized scleroderma primarily affects the skin in various areas of the body but may affect muscles and bone. It usually does not progress to become systemic. The two types of localized scleroderma are: morphea and linear. Morphea scleroderma appears as localized hardened patches. Linear scleroderma occurs in a single extremity, usually a leg, and can appear as long hardened strip. It can also affect bone growth in children.

Systemic scleroderma can be more serious. It affects internal organs such as the heart, lungs or kidneys as well as blood vessels and the digestive system as thick scar tissue develops and hinders their functioning. Systemic scleroderma is further divided into the groups of: limited and diffuse. The five most common areas affected in limited scleroderma are known by the acronym CREST.

● C- Calcinosis is when calcium deposits form in connective tissue typically on the hands, fingers, face and trunk.

● R- Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition where blood vessels constrict in the hands and feet in response to cold or stress. Feet and fingers turn white and cold, then turn blue eventually turning red as blood flow resumes.

● E –Esophageal dysfunction due to scarring can lead to swallowing difficulties or chronic heartburn.

● S- Sclerodactyly is tightening of the skin of the fingers due to excess collagen production making it hard to bend or straighten them.

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HERWriter Guide

Anon - It's perfectly understandable that you would be "freaked out" from learning that you have this condition. Your doctor may have been concerned that you could become overwhelmed, and also confused, by the wide variety of both credible and truly bad information available online. To work in partnership with your doctor to manage your health though it means becoming informed and gaining a better sense of control over your condition. I'm glad you came to our site - we're here to help you.

First - here's our reference page on scleroderma which will provide you with a basic overview of the condition and treatments: http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/scleroderma

Second - The Scleroderma Foundation provides a wide range of support services, and has experience in helping other newly diagnosed women learn how to deal with this condition. They offer assistance including support groups and message boards. You can find them at http://www.scleroderma.org/

I hope this information is helpful, and that you'll keep in touch. Take care, Pat

April 30, 2010 - 5:08pm
(reply to Pat Elliott)

Thank you for your help, I had never really thought about talking to someone about all the medical stuff I have and am going through, not to others outside of my husband's family anyway, and they don't ever seem to understand that I need more then just acknowledgement in regards to what I might be going through. I always just blow it off and put in the back of my mind for when I might need it. Thanks again!

May 1, 2010 - 12:35am
EmpowHER Guest

I just was told a little bit ago that I have systemic scleroderma and my doctor seemed very serious about it but then told me that I didn't need to read to far into it just yet because she didn't want me to freak out, but I gotta say that regardless of how much I read or don't read, I'm still kind of freaked out! This isn't the first medical problem I've had to deal with! I think I need to just become a test project for medical science!

April 30, 2010 - 4:45pm
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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.