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Scleroderma causes, symptoms: Use saline water, wear gloves and socks to avoid this autoimmune disease

Scleroderma is a complex autoimmune disorder that affects connective tissues, characterized by skin tightening and internal organ fibrosis. You can manage its symptoms by staying warm or by using saline soaks or warm water.

December 28, 2023 / 10:13 AM IST
Benefits of saline soaks (Image: Canva)

Dip your hands and feet in warm saline water, as it helps manage and reduce the episodes of Raynaud's phenomenon (Image: Canva)

Autoimmune diseases are those which occur when the body's defence systems, designed to safeguard you, mistakenly identify its own cells, tissues, or organs as threats and attack them. This can lead to serious internal issues, impacting your health.

Among these conditions, Scleroderma stands as a complex and often misconstrued autoimmune disorder impacting connective tissues. As it progresses, individuals contend with the gradual fibrosis affecting both skin and internal organs, presenting many challenges in daily life.

Scleroderma, derived from the Greek words "skleros" (hard) and "derma" (skin), contains a group of rare autoimmune disorders characterised by abnormal growth of connective tissue. This excessive collagen production causes tightening and thickening of the skin and can also affect internal organs.

Causes and triggers:

While the exact cause of Scleroderma remains unclear, a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, and an overactive immune system are thought to contribute to its onset. Factors like family history, exposure to certain chemicals, infections, and even hormonal imbalances might influence its development.

Spectrum of symptoms:

Symptoms of Scleroderma may vary widely and affect different parts of the body. From thickening and tightening of the skin to Raynaud's phenomenon (extreme sensitivity to cold in the fingers and toes), joint pain, digestive issues, and potential complications with vital organs like the lungs or heart, the array of symptoms can be both diverse and crippling.

Types of Scleroderma:

Scleroderma manifests in two primary forms: localised and systemic. Localised Scleroderma typically affects the skin and, in some cases, underlying tissues. In contrast, systemic Scleroderma can impact internal organs, often classified as limited or diffuse depending on the extent of skin involvement and internal organ damage.

This condition is relatively rare, affecting primarily women in their prime childbearing years, though men and individuals of any age can also develop this condition. It often emerges between the ages of 30 and 50, but paediatric cases exist, presenting unique challenges in diagnosis and management. Scleroderma remains a medical enigma, challenging both patients and doctors alike.

Here's what you can do to prevent the manifestations of Scleroderma:

Stay chill-proof: When the winter season is about to approach, it is best to wear gloves and socks to prevent sensitivity to cold.

Saline soaks: The hands and feet may be dipped in warm saline water, as it helps manage and reduce the episodes of Raynaud's phenomenon. This may be done several times a day for prophylaxis.

Use warm water: If you spend a part of your day washing utensils or doing domestic chores, it is recommended to use warm water, especially in the winter season.

Choose wellness, ditch smoke: One of the primary reasons for the occurrence of the sensitivity of the hands and feet is smoking. Avoiding this can have long-term benefits.

Relief Rx: Your healthcare provider may recommend small doses or a monthly bolus of steroids to provide symptomatic relief from systemic sclerosis. Other immunosuppressants may also be advised but must only be taken after consulting the dermatologist.

Rajeshwaari Kalla is a freelance health and wellness writer
first published: Dec 28, 2023 10:13 am

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