Systemic sclerosis (SS) / Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder. This means it's a condition in which the immune system attacks the body. Healthy tissue is destroyed because the immune system mistakenly thinks it's a foreign substance or infection.
SS is characterised by changes in the texture and appearance of the skin, which is due to increased collagen production. Collagen is a component of connective tissue.
The disorder isn't confined to skin changes, however. It can affect your blood vessels, muscles, hearing, digestive system, lungs and kidneys.
Features of systemic sclerosis can appear in other autoimmune disorders. When this occurs, it's called a mixed connective disorder.
The disease is typically seen in women 30 to 50 years old, but men may also be affected.
SS may only affect the skin in the early stages of the disease. You may notice your skin thickening and shiny areas developing around your mouth, nose, fingers, and other bony areas.
As the condition progresses, you may begin to have limited movement of the affected areas.
Other symptoms include:
hair loss calcium deposits, or white lumps under the skin
small, dilated blood vessels under the skin's surface joint pain shortness of breath a dry cough diarrhoea constipation difficulty swallowing oesophageal reflux abdominal bloating after meals.
You may begin to experience spasms of the blood vessels in your fingers and toes. Then, your extremities may turn white and blue when you're in the cold or feeling extreme emotional stress. This is called Raynaud's phenomenon.
There's no known way to prevent SS other than to reduce risk factors you can control. High blood pressure may be caused by kidney changes from sclerosis. Your doctor may order blood tests like antibody testing, rheumatoid factor, and sedimentation rate.
Treatment can't cure the condition, but it can help reduce symptoms and slow disease progression. Treatment is typically based on a person's symptoms and the need to prevent complications. - Source: Healthline
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