The Midweek Sun
Raising Awareness About Sclero
This interview with Dr Gaone Ditlotlo involves a discussion, in honor of June being Scleroderma Awareness Month. An opportunity to share information including underlying causes on the rare skin condition. To know scleroderma is to understand the impact of
What is scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a rare and potentially devastating chronic, multi-system Autoimmune disease. An Autoimmune disease is a condition whereby one’s immune system produces antibodies that mistakenly attack healthy tissues instead of being protective. Scleromeans hardening/ thickening, dermameans skin. Scleroderma is characterized by excess deposition of collagen in skin and other tissues resulting in skin thickness and organ fibrosis.
Why is it important to raise awareness about Scleroderma?
June is Scleroderma awareness month and June 29th is World Scleroderma Day. It is a day to recognize the bravery of those who live with scleroderma. It is important to advocate for those affected by this life-threatening disease and make them feel seen. It is also important to raise awareness so that scleroderma is part of a national conversation and access to specialized healthcare can be improved for patients with Scleroderma. June 29th, 1940 was the day on which a gifted Swiss artist Paul Klee died. He suffered from scleroderma and his paintings were influenced by his illness.
It is important to raise awareness and understanding across the world among the general population and healthcare professionals. Lack of awareness of the condition amongst healthcare professionals leads lo delayed diagnosis, which can result in serious and potentially life-threatening consequences for people with scleroderma.
How do you classify scleroderma and what are the symptoms?
Classification of scleroderma is important as the different types of scleroderma affect the body differently and their severity also varies.
Scleroderma is classified into localized and generalized forms.
Localized scleroderma is characterized by skin thickness without internal organ involvement. There are 2 types of localized scleroderma.
Morphea- Single or multiple plaques/ patches of thickened skin commonly on the trunk.
Linear Scleroderma- Bands of thickened skin commonly on the legs or arms, but sometimes on the face.
Generalized Scleroderma/ Systemic Sclerosis (SSc)
Systemic sclerosis is characterized
My desire to deal with conditions that affect the human eye started when I was doing my Tirelo Sechaba in Tshane. While there, I used to see eye care personnel coming all the way by skin thickness and internal organ involvement. It is divided into Limited Cutaneous Systemic sclerosis and Diffuse Cutaneous systemic sclerosis based on the extent of skin involvement.
Limited Cutaneous Systemic sclerosis
Patients with this type of systemic sclerosis have skin thickness limited to the neck, face or aspects of the upper and lower extremities below the elbows and knees. It is a slowly progressive and milder form of Systemic sclerosis.
Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic sclerosis.
Patients with this type of systemic sclerosis have generalized skin thickness that extends above the elbows and knees and involves the trunk. They may present relatively acutely with rapid progression of skin thickness. It is a severe form of systemic sclerosis.
Systemic sclerosis is a multi-system condition.
Share some of the common symptoms of scleroderma that individuals should be aware of?
Skin Related Signs and symptoms Early symptoms may include swelling and itchiness of the skin. Affected skin can become darker or lighter in colour and may look shiny and smooth because of tightness. Affected skin also has hair loss and loses skin creases and ability to sweat and hence becomes dry.
Tightening of facial skin can cause the mouth to become smaller and narrow (microstomia). This makes opening the mouth, chewing & brushing teeth very difficult.