What Is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma (“hard skin”) is a relatively uncommon autoimmune disease that causes connective tissues throughout the body to harden. The underlying cause is an inappropriate immune system response. For reasons that are not well understood, the body’s immune system—which normally provides protection against viruses, bacteria and other invaders—inadvertently attacks healthy connective tissues. More specifically, the immune system produces collagen as if it were repairing an injury, but the collagen is unnecessary and simply builds up in connective tissues, sometimes affecting the function of nearby organs.
As a chronic condition, scleroderma cannot be reversed or cured, but it may improve from time to time or even go into remission. Its symptoms, which can vary widely among individuals, can often be managed with treatment.
What are the symptoms of scleroderma?
In many cases, the first signs of scleroderma involve the fingers. Early symptoms may include:
- Sensitivity to cold and stress
- Skin color changes
These symptoms, which are known as secondary Raynaud’s syndrome, occur when excess collagen narrows the blood vessels in the fingers, causing them to overreact to cold temperatures and emotional stress.
As the disease progresses, the skin over the fingers and hands becomes tight and the mobility of the joints can be affected.
How is scleroderma treated?
Medication is the main form of treatment for scleroderma. Although there is no way to completely stop the immune system from overproducing collagen, various medications can be used to help control the resulting symptoms and prevent complications. Some options include:
- Steroid creams or pills to reduce swelling, relieve joint pain and loosen tight skin
- Blood pressure medications to dilate blood vessels, which can lessen finger sensitivity and help prevent lung and kidney problems
- Immunosuppressants to slow down the overactive immune system
- Antacids to relieve gastrointestinal issues, such as heartburn, indigestion, bloating, diarrhea and constipation
- Antibiotics to help prevent infection from fingertip ulcers
- Regular influenza and pneumonia vaccinations to help protect the lungs
- Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to improve comfort
Physical therapy, including targeted stretches and exercises, can help keep the joints from becoming too hard to bend. Some people with scleroderma also benefit from wearing warm gloves.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your scleroderma symptoms and treatment options with a rheumatologist at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, contact us to request an appointment at our office in Houston, TX, today.
To request an appointment, please enter the information on the form on the right and press the “Continue” button to start the appointment request process.
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Everyone here is so professional and kind. Everything was explained to me so that could understand what had to be done. Haven’t had the surgery yet, will update when I have…. One month after surgery, started physical therapy and all is going well. Dr. Mack did such a great job. X Ray’s show the phenomenal work he did on my ankle. Thank you so much… The physical therapy here is great. They provide so much insight and help. Getting much better.
Excellent care and attention to patients. I recently had a total hip replacement and I am able to walk 6 weeks after surgery with no cane. Great feeling to be independant again. So happy to have such an excellent doctor, Dr.Thomas Tanous. His staff was excellent and encouraging as I healed from my surgery. I would definitely recommend Advanced Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
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Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine has, at 76, virtually given me a new lease on being mobile and active. I have seen Dr’s Tanous, Patel, and Cubbage for an assortment of neck, spine and hip problems. Steroid injections to spine by Dr. Patel and the bursa in my hips by Dr. Tanous have taken me from not being able to walk my dog to the end of the block without excruciating pain to walking her daily and even doing several 2 to 2.5 mile hikes on vacations in the last couple of years. I cannot praise them highly enough.
I highly recommend Advanced Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine whenever the need arises for great orthopaedic surgeons. They take care of you in a very professional and courteous manner. The Doctors do not rush out like most Doctors do, they sit down and explain what they find, what you need to do to get better and stay to find out if you have any questions or concerns. I also love the physical therapists that they have on premises if there is a need for physical therapy; you do not have to go anywhere else. The staff is also very professional and take care of your promptly. You do not have to wait a long time in the waiting room. All the Doctors are great but I appreciate very much Dr. Fehsenfeld, Dr. Mohr and Dr. Mills. I have peace of mind after I am being take care by these outstanding Doctors
I have found the staff to be courteous and professional. Lynn and Julie were wonderful to work with and took good care of me. And Dr. Brooks and Dr. Mack are excellent and I will seek their help with any and all Orthopedic issues involving my knees in the future.
Thanks for the help on strengthening my legs.after the back surgery, There was no pain shooting down the back of my legs after surgery. I am recovering well with no pain medications.after seven days. I sincerity appreciate Dr.Cubbage.expertise. He told me what to expect with the surgery and recovery. He was spot on and l feel lucky to get a great Doctor like Dr. Cubbage. I also want to thank his great staff for their professional assistance.
I highly recommend Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine to anyone who needs anything dealing with bone replacement. They are THE BEST! Starting with the front office staff, all the techs, all the nurses and the anesthesiologists as well as the doctors are all supremely professional, kind, cordial, accommodating as well as being a Medical Community of their word! They are very concerned about your needs during and after your hospital stay.
They reach out to you afterwards to see how you are doing and I find that to be so hospitable in the culture and climate of our world today. Doctor. David Mack and his nurse Julie as well as the other staff are really the best and have a unique bedside as well as chair side manner. These are least to find qualities in healthcare today. Just to get someone to look at you while you explain as to why you are in for a visit today is a none find however; this staff is all of the above for mentioned and more! Please use this team for your Orthopedic needs and you will be happy with the outcome!