Scleroderma Awareness Month (June)
Scleroderma is a rare chronic disease which affects the immune system, blood vessels and connective tissue in the body. The condition can cause external hardening and thickening of the skin, as well as internal damage to vital organs.
There are two different types of scleroderma, localised and systemic.
- Morphea is the name given to localised patches of hardened skin that are smooth and shiny. They most commonly appear on the trunk, but can appear anywhere. They are painless and often have no other symptoms.
- In linear scleroderma the skin affected is in a line, usually along an arm or leg. The skin appears shiny, discoloured or scarred, and often feels tight and uncomfortable.
- This is the most common type of scleroderma in children. It has to be monitored closely as this can affect their growth.
- Limited systemic scleroderma usually occurs in people who have lived with Raynaud’s syndrome for a prolonged period. It progresses gradually and often affects only the face, hands, arms below the below, legs below the calves and feet. Eventually, it can cause problems with the lungs and digestive system which can result in difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and heartburn.
- Diffuse systemic scleroderma often affects the entire body. You are more likely to experience problems with your vital organs. Symptoms include fatigue, stiffness and joint pain.
- 2.5 million people worldwide suffer with scleroderma.
- There are 12,000 people who are currently diagnosed with this condition in the UK.
- Scleroderma is four times more common in females than it is in males (and usually develops between 30 – 50 years of age).
- There is currently no cure.
- 1/3 of people who suffer with this disease experience severe symptoms.
- The UK’s only scleroderma charity ‘Scleroderma & Raynauds UK‘ have invested £10million into further research of the disease.
Currently, sufferers of scleroderma can expect to be prescribed medication to help improve circulation, immunosuppressants, steroid medication, moisturising creams and other medications to treat conditions which are caused by scleroderma.
Newer treatments such as laser therapy and photodynamic therapy are currently being trialled in the hope to improve the outcome for many patients.
There are other options which may help manage the condition on a day-to-day basis such as physiotherapy, exercising, stopping smoking to help improve circulation, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet.