Systemic scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that causes an excess of collagen to develop in the skin or organs, resulting in the hardening and tightening of connective tissues. A healthy immune system helps to guard against viruses and infections by attacking foreign elements. Unfortunately, with autoimmune disorders, the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, causing a significant internal crisis.
Scleroderma is a Greek word meaning hard skin. The condition creates an autoimmune response where the body perceives an injury to the body’s tissues and organs, causing an excess of scar tissue to develop because of the overproduction of collagen. The disease can be incredibly dangerous, especially when it involves the internal organs. Therefore, to help you understand the condition, it is necessary to answer some of the most commonly asked questions
1. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Systemic Scleroderma?
Systemic scleroderma has several possible symptoms, and they vary depending on the parts of the body that are affected. The areas of the body affected can be broken down into four categories: the skin, the digestive system, the fingers or toes and the heart, lungs or kidneys.
When scleroderma affects the skin, which occurs most frequently, a patient will notice hard patches on their limbs or body. While the number, size and location of these patches vary, they will typically have a shiny appearance because of the tightness of the skin. Also, patients may notice restricted movement.
When scleroderma affects the digestive tract, symptoms will depend on the location of the disease. For example, chronic heartburn or difficulty swallowing can be a result of scleroderma affecting the esophagus. If the disease is present in the intestines, patients may experience constipation, bloating, diarrhea and cramping. In some cases, scleroderma may prevent intestinal muscles from moving properly, eventually leading to malnutrition.
Raynaud’s disease is one of the earliest signs of scleroderma, and it affects the blood vessels in the fingers and toes. During cold seasons or times of emotional distress, the disease causes blood vessels to contract, possibly making the fingers and toes feel numb and turn blue.
In the most dangerous circumstances, systemic scleroderma might affect the heart, lungs or kidneys. If the function of any one of these organs is severely impaired, the disease can become life-threatening.