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What is scleroderma: causes, symptoms and treatments

medical patient

Scleroderma is a disease that you don't hear much about and for this reason it is quite difficult to diagnose. Here's how to recognize this disease and what are the treatments.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease, due to a malfunction of the immune system that attacks its own tissues. This pathology mainly affects the skin , but in the most serious forms it also attacks the internal organs, especially the lungs. For this reason, recognizing it is very important in order to be able to cure yourself as soon as possible. Let's find out, therefore, what are the causes and symptoms of this disease, and what are the best treatments .

Scleroderma, symptoms and causes

Scleroderma is a disease that predominantly affects women between the ages of 30 and 50, and in Italy about 300 new cases occur every year. In most patients, the disease begins with a change in finger sensation . These overreact to sudden changes in temperature, changing color and producing pain and tingling. This symptom is called Raynaud's phenomenon known for Raynaud's syndrome .

medical patient
medical patient

Subsequently there is an abnormal thickening of the skin , caused by an abnormal activity of skin repair. Other non-specific symptoms , and therefore difficult to relate to scleroderma, are gastroesophageal reflux , itching, joint pain and difficulty breathing.

Precisely because of the presence of such generic symptoms, scleroderma is often diagnosed with great delay, preventing the disease from being blocked at its inception. There is still no clarity on the causes : it seems however that some viruses can trigger the anomalous immune response towards the tissues of our body and thus lead to the development of the disease.

Treatments for scleroderma

To date, there is no definitive cure for scleroderma. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and cortisone are commonly used to keep symptoms under control. Immunosuppressants can also slow down the disease by acting on the runaway immune system.

In recent years, researchers have studied the use of vasodilators to reduce the suffering of the capillaries.
Calcium channel blockers and antithrombotics, for example, are among the first-line drugs against scleroderma. For other non-specific symptoms, such as gastroesophageal reflux, reference can be made to over-the -counter drugs .
Fundamental therapy for scleroderma is to stop smoking immediately . In fact, smoking has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, worsening vasoconstriction and increasing the risk of symptoms affecting the lungs .

Scleroderma, the prognosis

Scleroderma is a disease that can lead to death , especially if treatment is delayed. In general, the greatest risk occurs between 2 and 5 years after the onset of symptoms. After this period there may be a stabilization or even an improvement of the disease .

The mildest form, scleroderma cutis , has a favorable prognosis in 80/90% of cases. While the most serious form, the so-called systemic scleroderma (the one that also involves the internal organs including the lungs), has a worse prognosis and can be fatal, especially due to pulmonary hypertension. For this reason, from the first symptoms, it is necessary to immediately consult a doctor in order to obtain the right therapy.

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