The Doctor Is In:
Scleroderma Awareness Month
June is Scleroderma Awareness month. Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin and connective tissue. Scleroderma causes hardening of the skin and in some patients, the connective tissue throughout the body. According to the Scleroderma Foundation, “Most patients do not have any relatives with scleroderma and their children do not get scleroderma.” Latifah told People magazine after her mother was diagnosed last year, that the disease has caused pulmonary fibrosis (hardening connective tissue in the lungs) in her lungs, which impacts her ability to breathe. She also suffers from pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) due to her illness. The Mayo clinic states that “Scleroderma affects women more often than men and most commonly oocurs between the ages of 30 and 50.”
So what are some of the symptoms, treatments, causes, and complications? Read on.
What Are Complications Of Scleroderma?
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*Fingertips- Raynaud’s phenomenon can be so severe that causes permanent damage to the tissues causing skin ulcers, which can lead to gangrene, and amputation.
*Lungs- Pulmonary fibrosis causes reduced lung function, which causes difficulty breathing. The hardening of the lung tissues also causes pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs.
*Kidneys- Elevated blood pressure and increased level of protein in the urine usually occurs when scleroderma affects the kidneys.
* Heart- Scarring of heart tissue increases your risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) and congestive heart failure, and can cause inflammation of the membranous sac surrounding your heart (pericarditis). Scleroderma also can raise the pressure on the right side of your heart and cause it to wear out.
* Teeth- When the facial skin tightens the mouth becomes smaller and narrower and it is harder to brush your teeth or have them cleaned professionally. Scleroderma also causes low saliva production so the risk of dental decay increase.
* Digestive System- Acid reflux and difficulty swallowing are caused by the disease as well as constipation and diarrhea.
*Sexual function – Scleroderma decreases sexual lubrication and constricting the vaginal opening.