What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as an autoimmune disease.
The word “scleroderma” comes from the Greek word “sclero”, meaning hard, and the Latin word “derma,” meaning skin. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease. The disease varies from individual-to-individual. Scleroderma is not contagious, infectious, cancerous, or malignant.
- How serious is scleroderma?
Any chronic disease can be serious. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life threatening. The seriousness will depend on the parts of the body, which are affected, and the extent to which they are affected. A mild case can become more serious if not properly treated. Prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified physicians may minimize the symptoms of scleroderma and lessen the chance for irreversible damage.
- How is scleroderma diagnosed?
The diagnostic process may require consultation with rheumatologists (autoimmune disease specialists), and/or dermatologists (skin specialists) and require blood studies and numerous other specialized tests depending upon which organs are affected.
- What causes scleroderma?
The exact cause or causes of scleroderma are still unknown, but scientists and medical researchers are working hard to make those determinations. It is known that scleroderma involves an overproduction of collagen.
- Is scleroderma genetic?
Most individuals do not have any relatives with scleroderma and their children do not get scleroderma. Research indicates that there is a susceptibility gene, which raises the likelihood of getting scleroderma, but the gene alone does not cause the disease.
- What is the treatment for scleroderma?
Currently, there is no cure for scleroderma, but there are many treatments available to help particular symptoms. Some treatments are directed at decreasing the activity of the immune system. Some people with mild disease may not need medication at all and occasionally people can go off treatment when their scleroderma is no longer active. Because there is so much variation from one person to another, there is great variation in the treatments prescribed.