What Is Scleroderma?

By albert
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Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own healthy cells and tissues, treating them like it would a foreign body or a harmful organism. Scleroderma changes the nature of the skin such that the texture and appearance change due to increased production of collagen. Collagen is an essential component of connective tissues such as skin. Some people think that scleroderma is limited to the skin. However, it can affect many other tissues including blood vessels, muscles, heart, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, and renal systems.

Since it is an autoimmune disease, some of its features can also appear in other autoimmune disorders. Such a condition is called mixed connective disorder and it includes some features from each autoimmune disorder. Scleroderma usually appears in people aged between 30 and 50 years, and is more common in women than men. Its symptoms vary according to the affected tissues and systems.

1. Symptoms of Scleroderma

Scleroderma means hard skin. The first symptom of scleroderma is the changes occurring in fingers and hands such as stiff hands, tight fingers, and puffiness. The early symptoms usually appear as a reaction to cold or stress. This is followed by swelling in hands and feet, which usually happens in the morning more than the rest of the day. Other symptoms include deposition of calcium in connective tissues, Raynaud’s disease, esophageal problems such as difficulty in swallowing, increased tightness, puffiness, and stiffness of fingers, and red spots on face and hands. However, not all these symptoms appear in every patient, and symptoms actually vary from person to person.


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