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Scleroderma is a disease that affects the various connective tissues of the body, causing hardening of the tissues, pain, and inflammation. This disease is considered to be autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body begins to attack its own cells and tissues. The reasons for this are not entirely understood, although it is believed to be a combination of genetics and environment. There is no known cure for this disease, so scleroderma treatment is aimed at treating individual symptoms and keeping the patient as comfortable as possible. This typically includes medications to control pain and inflammation.
Scleroderma treatment begins with identifying the areas of the body that are affected and treating symptoms accordingly. For instance, if the disease has affected the esophagus, heartburn may be present. Scar tissue often forms, making swallowing difficult. Medications are often prescribed to treat the heartburn. Surgery sometimes becomes necessary if the inflammation in the esophagus becomes dangerous.
Blood vessels, particularly those in the fingers and toes, can become constricted, or narrowed, causing poor circulation to these areas. This can cause skin discoloration, pain, and tingling sensations. When these symptoms are present, the patient is said to be suffering from Raynaud's phenomenon. Prescriptions medications are sometimes used, but the most important scleroderma treatment in this instance is to make sure the hands and feet are kept warm at all times.
Monitoring the patient's blood pressure on a regular basis is an extremely important part of scleroderma treatment. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is very common in those with this disease. If left untreated, this can lead to heart issues or even kidney failure.
If scleroderma affects the lungs, the patient can experience shortness of breath, especially after being even moderately active. This is often due to a condition called pulmonary hypertension, a condition that causes elevated blood pressure in the blood vessels located in the lungs. Scleroderma treatment in this case consists of trying to control the symptoms with medications and sometimes oxygen therapy. In severe cases, a lung transplant may become necessary. A heart and lung transplant is sometimes needed in order to save the life of the patient.
Scleroderma treatment involving the intestines is sometimes necessary. This disease can cause constipation or diarrhea. If the constipation is severe, an impaction or blockage may occur. Sometimes, this obstruction can be removed manually, but surgical intervention is often required in order to clear the blockage or repair intestinal damage due to the obstruction.