Scleroderma is a rare chronic connective tissue disease that is part of a class of autoimmune rheumatic conditions. Fortunately, there are various treatment options available to manage symptoms and prevent further complications. Our experts at ArthritisCARE are committed to providing the best possible care to help our patients manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and achieve their goals.
What is scleroderma (sclerosis)?
The word “scleroderma” means “hard skin.” Scleroderma is a rare chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin and connective tissue of your body, leading to hardening and thickening of the skin and internal organs.
Scleroderma connective tissue diseases are rare autoimmune disorders resulting in thickening or hardening of the skin and internal organs.
What are the different types of scleroderma?
Sclerosis connective tissue diseases present two different types:
Localised scleroderma, or limited scleroderma, affects only the skin and sometimes the tissues beneath it. It causes discoloured, thickened patches of skin and may lead to stiffness and difficulty moving the joints in the affected area.
Systemic sclerosis affects connective tissue, impacting blood vessels, joints, the digestive tract, and occasionally the lungs, heart, kidneys, and muscles.
Systemic sclerosis is further classified into limited scleroderma and diffuse scleroderma.
About 70% of people diagnosed with systemic sclerosis have limited scleroderma. This form causes hardening of the skin on your hands and Raynaud’s phenomenon, where your blood vessels spasm and cause your extremities to turn white in cooler weather.
30% of people diagnosed with systemic scleroderma have this diffuse form. This type of illness can be very serious, affecting most of your skin and usually your organs and other connective tissue.
Sclerosis can be localised to patches of skin, causing only very minor problems, or it can be systemic, causing more health issues.
What causes scleroderma?
The exact cause of scleroderma is unknown. Like all autoimmune diseases, a trigger results in an otherwise healthy immune system attacking healthy tissue. For scleroderma patients, this causes their bodies to produce excess collagen, resulting in hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues in the affected areas.
Although the exact cause is unknown, there are some indications that genetics and environmental factors play a role in triggering your immune system to malfunction.
Who gets scleroderma?
Scleroderma can affect anyone; however, it is more common in women, and onset typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.
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What are the signs and symptoms of scleroderma?
The signs and symptoms of scleroderma vary widely between patients, depending on the type and severity of the disease as well as what part of the body is involved. Common symptoms include:
- Hard, thickened skin, especially on the arms, fingers, and face.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon, where your fingers or toes turn white in cold weather.
- Joint and/or muscle pain and stiffness.
- Calcium deposits under your skin show as small white chalky lumps.
- Gastrointestinal tract and digestive issues such as indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, or constipation.
- Fatigue, malaise.
- Shortness of breath.
- Reduced exercise tolerance.
Raynaud’s phenomenon, where your extremities turn white due to the restriction of your blood vessels in cold weather, is a symptom of scleroderma.
How is scleroderma diagnosed?
While there is no specific test for scleroderma, the team at ArthritisCARE is skilled at diagnosing it based on other methods. We use a combination of medical history, physical examination, assessment of your overall health, blood tests, skin biopsy, and imaging studies. Sometimes it takes several visits before we can confidently diagnose scleroderma, especially as many of the symptoms overlap with other diseases and types of arthritis.
What does a diagnosis of scleroderma mean for me?
A diagnosis of scleroderma means you are living with a chronic disease. With proper treatment and management, you may find you have few or minimal symptoms and are able to lead a normal, or near-normal, life. However, in severe cases, people may have issues that impact their organs and require more intense treatment and monitoring.
What options are there for scleroderma treatment in Brisbane?
While there are ways to control your symptoms, there is no current cure for scleroderma. Treatment, instead, aims at managing your symptoms and preventing complications. Options for treatment in Brisbane include:
- Medications to control inflammation and pain.
- Physiotherapy to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility.
- Occupational therapy to develop adaptive strategies for daily living.
Our team of Rheumatologists at ArthritisCARE in Brisbane is dedicated to providing the best care possible for those living with scleroderma. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
How much does scleroderma treatment cost in Brisbane?
The cost of seeing a rheumatologist at ArthritisCARE is variable, depending on your unique needs. The Frequently Asked Questions section of our website provides more information and up-to-date prices.
Why choose ArthritisCARE for your scleroderma
treatment in Brisbane?
At ArthritisCARE, our team of medical experts is dedicated to providing compassionate and personalised care to help you manage your disease and improve your quality of life. We offer state-of-the-art facilities and the latest treatments to ensure the best possible outcomes so our patients can live their lives as fully as possible. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you manage your Sjögren’s syndrome.
Meet Dr. Peter Landsberg
The ArthritisCARE team of rheumatoid specialists in Brisbane has many years of experience and offers you a choice of both male and female Rheumatologists in Brisbane. Our goal is to ensure that you feel comfortable working with us so that we can collaboratively treat your condition and significantly improve the way you feel. Each and every day.
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How to contact us
Find a scleroderma specialist near me:
You can find all the commonly asked questions about scleroderma below:
Learn more about Scleroderma here
Arthritis Australia’s Scleroderma Resources page
Arthritis Australia’s Printable Information Sheet about Scleroderma
National Scleroderma Foundation (USA)
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