Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that's treated by a rheumatologist. If you have this condition, the treatment you receive will depend on the symptoms you have since managing symptoms is the goal of treatment rather than curing the disease. Here's how the types of scleroderma differ and how a rheumatologist might manage your care.
There Are Three Types Of Scleroderma
This autoimmune disease presents itself in various ways. Sometimes, the condition is mild and you may have limited patches of tight skin on your extremities. This is called localized scleroderma. If the condition is more widespread, it can affect more of your skin and other parts of your body, such as your esophagus. This is limited scleroderma. Diffuse scleroderma is the most serious form of the disease, and it can have damaging effects on many areas of your body, including your skin, fingers, toes, and internal organs.
This Condition Is Caused By Too Much Collagen
Scleroderma causes hardening and tightening of your skin and organs because of an overproduction of collagen in your body. This condition can arise for genetic reasons or exposure to chemicals and medications. It is thought to be an immune system disease, so you could have other autoimmune diseases and symptoms along with scleroderma.
Treatments Help Control Symptoms
Localized scleroderma is the most common type of this condition. If you have this form of the disease, you may not even need any treatment. However, it's still good to be seen by a rheumatologist so the doctor can track your symptoms. The patches on your skin may go away on their own, or your condition might progress to the next stage of the disease. When your only symptom is tight skin patches, your rheumatologist might prescribe a topical cream.
Limited scleroderma can involve more of your body, but it commonly causes problems with your fingers. Hand movements may be difficult, and your fingers may lose circulation. This form of the disease also affects your esophagus, so your rheumatologist may need to prescribe medications that reduce heartburn. You might also receive medications that dilate blood vessels to increase circulation in your fingers.
Diffuse scleroderma is the rarest form of this condition, and since it can affect your organs, the rheumatologist has to customize a treatment plan that focuses on treating your organs that are affected. You might need pain relievers, cardiac and pulmonary medications, kidney treatments, and antibiotics for skin problems. Your rheumatologist may also give you immune suppressants to control your symptoms and slow the progression of your condition.
For more information, contact a rheumatologist near you.