Scleroderma: Origin, Diagnosis and Treatment
Scleroderma is considered to be an autoimmune, rheumatic and chronic disease. It hardens the connective tissue in the body.
Scleroderma: Origin, Diagnosis and Treatment
The term “Scleroderma” is a combination of two Greek words: ‘sclero’ meaning hard and ‘derma’ meaning skin. Basically it is a disease in which our skin gets hard. It is a chronic disease and develops over time. Some other symptoms are also associated with this disease affecting joints and vital organs but the most visible and noticeable manifestation is skin hardening. In some cases, the primary symptoms may not occur initially or may never appear at all. Scientists are yet to discover a definite and absolute cure of the disease so a lot of confusion prevails about it. Let’s dive into the details of the disease and present all the necessary information in a viable form.
What is Scleroderma?
Now let’s discuss the disease in broad medical perspective after the general introduction. Scleroderma is considered to be an autoimmune, rheumatic and chronic disease. It hardens the connective tissue in the body. Connective tissues are spread throughout the body adding strength to the organs and other parts of the body. Different kinds of proteins make up the connective tissues. One such protein is collagen found in the skin. Scleroderma results in excessive collagen formation preventing the organs and system to function normally.
How is it an Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to work against its own self. Scleroderma is considered to be an autoimmune disease. Normally, the immune system protects the human body by attacking foreign threats like viruses and bacteria. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system works against itself by mistaking the body’s own cells as foreign invaders and tries to nullify it by a counter attack. The immune system of a person having scleroderma tries to counter an injury by letting body cells make collagen. But the cells do not stop making it after the required level and end up making too much collagen. This extra collagen in the tissues then results in malfunction of organs.
Symptoms and Severity vary from Patient to Patient
Scleroderma is an unpredictable disease showing lots of variety. The condition and severity varies from patient to patient. It can start as a mild itching but may lead to severe clinical problems by affecting the vital organs and causing them to malfunction. For some of the patients it can be very severe and even threaten life while there are cases too where the patients improve and even go into remission.
Scleroderma is chronic as well:
Scleroderma is also classified as a chronic disease. Chronic diseases are the ones that last for a lifetime. Since chronic diseases like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and heart issues can be controlled and managed so scleroderma symptoms can also be controlled.
Origin of the Disease
The cause of scleroderma is still unknown and hence scientists are unable to find a cure. However, there are various environmental issues that are considered to be related to scleroderma. These factors include exposure to silica dust, vinyl chloride, epoxy resins, and certain organic solvents. Scleroderma is not genetic but it is considered to be genetically susceptible and a trigger event. While no complete treatments have been discovered, there are medications that can effectively counter and limit the symptoms. Supplements like SerraZyme and Serrazyme Ultra, the herbal and miracle enzyme formula and two of the best supplements for inflammation, have been reported by many clients to give commendable relief but the effects aren’t proven or lab tested so nothing can be said for sure.
Types of Scleroderma:
Generally, it is limited to skin changes and does not impact the internal organs. Skin is primarily affected in this form of the disease starting from mild symptoms which develops over time. Localized scleroderma can be controlled by some medicines.
Systemic scleroderma is a complex form of this autoimmune disease affecting vital organs all over the body while inducing skin changes as well. The systemic form of the disease has three major categories which can occur i.e. limited, diffused and overlap. This type may be helped by supplements like Serrazyme and NattokiZymes according to positive reviews but again, it’s not a tested method yet.
Limited form of systemic scleroderma has its impact limited to the skin of lower arms and legs and maybe face. It was referred to as CREST syndrome in early times. It affects organs as well but the conditions develop more slowly than other forms of systemic scleroderma. While it progresses slowly and has better prognosis compared to other forms, some variants of these forms have also shown complications.
The more progressive form of systemic scleroderma is called diffuse cutaneous systemic scleroderma. This condition is indicated by rapid skin thickening and extends to many parts of the body, starting with the hands and face and stretching out to the arms and trunk. Individuals with diffuse scleroderma are at more serious risk for showing internal organ effects even in the initial stages. The diffused form is considered to be the most dangerous form of systemic scleroderma
The third form of systemic scleroderma is a varied condition generally referred to as overlap syndrome of scleroderma. In this condition, apart from the general symptoms of scleroderma the patient shows additional symptoms which are of other autoimmune diseases like lupus and myositis. One such example is Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder, which incorporates side effects that are normal in scleroderma, lupus, and myositis.
What are Scleroderma Symptoms?
As the name suggests that it’s a skin disease so most of the common scleroderma symptoms include skin related complications. The symptoms mostly appear in fingers and toes. In most of the patients, the fingers become firm and puffy and also become very sensitive to cold changing their color with cold and tension. This is due to the extra collagen formation leading to skin thickening. This sometimes happens in blood vessels and respiratory ducts causing them to narrow down because of fibrosis i.e. skin thickening. While the general symptoms are skin related, there is extensive variation in the overall symptoms and the order in which they affect or develop over time. The fingers disease is most commonly known as Raynaud’s phenomenon and it can happen with or without scleroderma.
The Raynaud’s Phenomenon
It involves skin changes and is a common occurrence especially in young women. Raynaud’s phenomenon may lead to scleroderma or it can exist separately as well. Most people with Raynaud’s indications in adolescent years never build up a positive ANA or any systemic disease or skin changes. In some of the patients, the early appearance of Raynaud’s side effects will be followed, some of the time years after the discovery, by their ANA turning out to be positive and extra scleroderma indications being indicated over the long run.
There are two types of this condition:
1. Primary Raynaud’s
Those patients exhibit primary Raynaud’s who do not have scleroderma or any other autoimmune disease. The anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) count is negative in primary Raynaud’s exhibitor. This condition exists in many patients and their ANA count remains negative not leading to scleroderma or any other autoimmune disease.
2. Secondary Raynaud’s
Patients having Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon are more susceptible to scleroderma or other autoimmune diseases. However, it does not always lead to scleroderma or other autoimmune diseases and only a small percentage develop these autoimmune diseases. Conversely, Scleroderma patients do have secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Scleroderma Varies Tremendously in its Symptoms and Development Process
How scleroderma occurs and develops varies a lot among different people. The agreed symptoms among doctors include stiff and swollen fingers and Raynaud’s phenomenon as well. It then takes years to progress and develop fully. In a lot of patients, the conditions don’t increase and symptoms remain the same and in control. In general, the more skin affected leads to more severe forms of scleroderma.
The Process of Scleroderma Diagnosis
Scleroderma diagnosis is difficult since the symptoms are not well distinct and in most of the cases the general symptoms are considered as an aging factor or rheumatoid arthritis. However, as we know, it affects the vital organs in addition to external skin.
When the general symptoms occur, the doctors examine the external skin of the face, fingers and toes to look for red skin and any inflammation. If scleroderma is suspected in the individual, then he / she is referred for detailed diagnosis of the disease.
Since other symptoms affect the vital organs so the detailed inspections of the disease involve the testing of all the primary organs namely kidneys, lungs and heart. Blood tests and gastrointestinal tests are also prescribed for indication of the ANA count. All the reports are then reviewed to confirm whether the case of scleroderma is positive or not.
Treatment of Scleroderma
It’s reported in some cases that the skin complications associated with (localized) scleroderma disappear on their own in three to four years. The type of scleroderma i.e. systemic scleroderma that affects internal organs usually worsens with time.
Scientists till date have been unable to discover any medicine which stops the formation of excessive collagen which is the primary reason for this disease. A lot of medicines are however advised by patients and some doctors which control the symptoms of the disease. Studies have not been done on natural approaches to this disease. Serrazyme, serrapeptase enzyme and SerraZyme Ultra are supplements that may help. Because serrapeptase dissolves unwanted organic tissue and waste it can be a viable possibility for some but since the results are not proven so it can’t be prescribed officially. Doctors normally advise different medicines to counter varying symptoms of the disease. A list of such medications is as follows.
- Steroid pills or creams are being used to reduce inflammation and joints pain.
- Supplements used for blood pressure are also prescribed to dilate blood vessels and prevent lung problems and cleanse kidney from uric acid. NattokiZymes is a natural product for the purpose of this as well as for dissolving blood clots. Raynaud’s phenomenon is also countered by these medications.
- Such medications that suppress the immune system are frequently advised by the doctors to help reduce scleroderma symptoms.
- Drugs for reducing stomach acid are also advised. Such antibiotics which help in movement of food through the intestines decrease bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
- Pain Relief is also advised in cases of extreme pain.
- In some severe skin problems of fingers and toes, doctors opt for amputation. Of course, this is so drastic that it is important to do all that can be done to avoid it.