Scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder that is classed as a connective tissue disease.

Overview

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder that is classed as a connective tissue disease. It causes the connective tissue to multiply throughout the body, in particular in the internal organs and the skin. The symptoms are diverse, but often include visible changes to the mouth or fingers. The disorder is treated with anti-inflammatory medication.

Symptoms

Localised form (circumscribed scleroderma)

  • Mainly affects the skin
  • Red patches
    • Slowly grow larger
    • Over time, yellowish white scabs with a lilac border
    • After months / years, brown patches are left
  • Slow stiffening of the joints

Diffuse form (systemic scleroderma)

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Autoimmune disorder (connective tissue disease)
  • Cause is unclear, discussion focuses on
    • Genetic factors, family predisposition
    • Viruses

The body overproduces connective tissue. This leads to the “hardening” of the normal tissue at the affected sites, causing different restrictions.

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blood test (search for autoimmune antibodies, inflammatory markers, etc.)
  • Capillaroscopy (examination of a finger under a special microscope)
  • Biopsy
  • X-ray
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Ultrasound
  • ECG
Possible therapies
  • Physiotherapy
  • Medicines to suppress inflammation
  • Painkillers
  • Eye drops for dry eyes
  • Gastric protection for acid reflux
  • Psychotherapy

What can I do myself?

  • Avoid the cold, dress correctly (including gloves, etc.)
  • Regular exercise

When to see a doctor?

  • New patches on the skin that don’t go away and/or get bigger
  • Increasingly dry eyes and mouth, for no discernible reason
  • Fingers suddenly turn white, then blue and then red, with pain
  • Increasing claw-like stiffening of fingers, shrinking mouth

Further information

Swiss League against Rheumatism (Rheumaliga Schweiz)
www.rheumaliga.ch

Synonyms

Scleroderma, autoimmune disorder

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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