Scleroderma-All That You Should Know About It

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Scleroderma is one among the different types of arthritis that is characterized by the thickening of the skin at extremities like chest, abdomen, and face, and at the onset of the disease, joint pain and stiffness especially in the hand joint are quite common.

Understanding Scleroderma In Detail

Being an autoimmune disorder, scleroderma is caused by the malfunctioning of the body’s immune system leading to inflammation and damage of tissues by the attack of immune system. The symptoms of scleroderma are most visible on the skin because skin tissues are affected the most in scleroderma patients and the word scleroderma translates to “thick skin”. When the immune system attacks skin tissues, the body responds to the attack by producing high amount of collagen that causes the thickening of the skin.

The exact cause of scleroderma remains unknown but some studies have suggested that people with a family history of scleroderma or some other rheumatic diseases might be at higher risk of developing scleroderma. Some researches have also suggested that frequent exposure to heavy metals and solvents, like in the case of people who work in refining or manufacturing plants could increase scleroderma risk.

Types Of Scleroderma

There are two main types of scleroderma

  • Systemic Scleroderma

The category includes 3 subtypes

  • Diffuse Scleroderma

It is the most serious form of scleroderma and is characterized by rapid thickening of skin of the upper arms, chest, thighs and abdomen and internal organs like lungs, heart and kidneys usually get involved in this condition.

  • Limited Scleroderma

The condition is not as serious as diffuse scleroderma because the skin of the fingers, forearms and hands only get thickened and the disease does not progress beyond these skin areas.

  • Scleroderma Sine Scleroderma

This form of scleroderma does not cause skin thickening but blood antibodies and internal organ involvement are characteristic of it

  • Localized scleroderma

This is a relatively milder form of scleroderma as the internal organs remain unaffected and the disease involves the skin tissues alone.

Two types of localized scleroderma are

  • Morphea

It is characterized by oval or round patches of hardened skin that usually appear on the chest and abdomen and most often the skin of arms, legs and face aren’t affected.

  • Linear

It is characterized by lines of thick skin that appears mostly on the arms,legs and torso though they might appear on face and neck area too. Linear scleroderma is more common in children and teenagers.

A combination of medical history analysis, laboratory test results and physical examination is used in the diagnosis of scleroderma and if the involvement of internal organs like heart, lungs, kidneys or intestine in this type of arthritis is to be determined, additional diagnostic tests have to be performed. The treatment methods vary according to the nature of the disease.