Advanced scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is an autoimmune disorder that results in the hardening of the skin, along with other organ issues. Symptoms can vary depending on which organs are affected and the severity of the condition.
Common symptoms of advanced scleroderma can include:
Skin-related symptoms: dryness, itching, abnormal hardening of the skin mainly on the face, hands, and feet, skin thinning and tightness, swelling or shrinking of the extremities, light or dark skin color changes, ulcers or sores on the fingers or extremities
Gastrointestinal issues: poor appetite and weight loss, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea
Respiratory issues: shortness of breath, coughing, voice changes, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma-like symptoms
Muscle and joint pain: painful, stiff, and swollen hands and feet, shortage of peripheral blood vessels and scarring of the lungs
Fatigue: debilitating and prolonged fatigue
Heart and kidneys issues: swelling in the feet and legs due to fluid retention, difficulty regulating body temperature, severe high blood pressure, and heart enlargement (cardiomyopathy)
Neurological issues: cognition issues, memory issues, difficulty sleeping, headache, paresthesia, depression, dizziness, and tremors
Nail changes: abnormally thin or brittle nails, or ridges and grooves in the nails that can form due to malformation of the nail bed
What is the most serious complication of scleroderma?
The most serious complication of scleroderma is pulmonary hypertension, which is the increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries. This can lead to shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness and fainting episodes.
If left untreated, pulmonary hypertension can lead to cardiac failure, heart attack and stroke. Other serious complications can be due to organ damage, such as rigid and thickening skin, joint and muscle pain, kidney failure and jaw dysfunction.
Scleroderma is also associated with hardening and scarring of the organs, and can affect the esophagus, heart, lungs, and even the brain. In some cases, these complications can be life-threatening and require long-term management and ongoing care.
Is scleroderma considered a terminal illness?
No, scleroderma is not considered a terminal illness. It is a serious long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the connective tissue in the body, including the skin and organs. And the disease can lead to complications like tissue and organ damage, fibrosis and, in rare cases, death.
However, with the right treatments and care, people with scleroderma can live long and healthy lives. In fact, many people can even lead very successful and fulfilling lives with scleroderma. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing further deterioration, and may include medications, physical and occupational therapy, lifestyle changes, and other interventions.
While there is no known cure for scleroderma, ongoing research continues to discover new treatments, therapies, and tools to help people manage the symptoms and complications associated with the condition.
Does scleroderma progress quickly?
The progression of scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis) varies from person to person. Most people with scleroderma experience a steady, progressive buildup of scar tissue (fibrosis) over time that may lead to disability and other life-threatening complications.
Generally speaking, scleroderma progresses slowly over time, though certain diseases related to scleroderma, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, may progress more quickly. Factors that may determine the speed of progression include the overall health of the person at the onset of the disease, the type of scleroderma that is present, and the promptness and effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.
Additionally, lifestyle adjustments such as avoiding high-stress situations, finding support systems, and getting regular exercise can help to slow down scleroderma progression. It is important to consult a doctor whenever experiencing troubling scleroderma symptoms in order to make decisions about the best course of treatment.
What are the long term effects of scleroderma on a person?
Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs, leading to changes in the skin, joints, and other organs. In the short-term, these effects can be treated, managed, and suppressed, however, the long-term effects of scleroderma can cause numerous severe and often disabling complications.
One of the most common long-term effects of scleroderma is the thickening and hardening of the skin, which can reduce the range of motion in the joints and muscles. This stiffening of the skin can lead to joint erosion, muscle atrophy, and contractures, which limit the person’s ability to move their arms, legs, and other parts of the body.
Another long-term effect of scleroderma is the buildup of scar tissue, or fibrosis, which can lead to organ liability. If a person’s scar tissue accumulates in the lungs, kidneys, heart or digestive system then these vital organs can become impaired, leading to chronic illnesses such as kidney failure, heart disease, and digestive disorders.
Additional long-term effects of scleroderma can include lung disease, sleep apnea, strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, nerve damage, inflammation, and chronic digestive disorders. People with scleroderma often experience cognitive problems such as memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and poor decision-making.
Other potential end complications are eye damage, gum disease, and skin ulcerations.
Proper diagnosis and treatment can help individuals with scleroderma manage their symptoms and minimize the long-term effects of the condition. This includes lifestyle changes, medication, and occupational therapy.
What type of scleroderma is fatal?
Systemic scleroderma, otherwise known as systemic sclerosis, is the type of scleroderma that is typically fatal. Systemic scleroderma is a rare, autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, damaging the skin and organs.
It can affect many parts of the body, including skin, lungs, heart, kidneys, and digestive tract, making it potentially serious or even life-threatening. It is considered a rare and complicated condition, and it can worsen over time if not treated properly.
Although the exact cause is unknown, certain factors like genetics and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disease. In some cases, systemic scleroderma can be fatal due to the damage the disease inflicts on the organs.
Treatment for systemic scleroderma involves medications, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, organ transplants. Treatment aims to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life, and while it is not always curable, many individuals are able to manage the condition and lead normal lives.
How long can you live with severe scleroderma?
The outlook for scleroderma depends on how quickly the condition progresses and how it is managed. With severe scleroderma, life expectancy can vary greatly. Generally, patients who experience rapid and progressive disease have a shorter life expectancy compared to those who experience slow and stable disease.
People with severe scleroderma are typically more likely to develop complications, such as organ failure or respiratory disorders, which can further affect their life expectancy.
In general, the prognosis for mild to moderate cases of scleroderma is satisfactory, with many individuals living a normal lifespan without major complications. However, severe cases of scleroderma have a much poorer prognosis.
People with severe scleroderma can still live for many years, but the life expectancy is usually shorter than that of mild to moderate cases. According to a 2004 study, the median survival for people with severe scleroderma was 11 years, and only 1 in 4 patients survived for more than 20 years.
The best way for people with scleroderma to manage their condition and maximize life expectancy is to be diligent with their treatment, including attending regularly scheduled follow-up visits and complying with the treatment plan recommended by their doctor.
Additionally, seeking emotional and social support can help individuals with scleroderma cope with the difficult challenges that come with living with a chronic, progressive condition.
Is scleroderma a serious condition?
Yes, scleroderma is a serious, chronic autoimmune disorder that has the potential to cause a variety of serious health complications. It affects the connective tissue in the body, leading to inflammation and an accumulation of scar tissue in the skin, joints, and other organs.
The most common and serious form of scleroderma is systemic sclerosis, which affects multiple organ systems and can be fatal. Symptoms of systemic sclerosis can include joint pain, Raynaud’s phenomenon (which is when the blood vessels in the hands and feet become extremely sensitive to cold temperatures), difficulty with digestion, swollen fingers and toes, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal problems.
Some people with scleroderma also experience pulmonary problems, including pulmonary fibrosis which can cause difficulty breathing and respiratory failure. People with scleroderma may also experience kidney and vascular problems, as well as loss of bladder control.
Because scleroderma can progress rapidly, it is important for individuals to get diagnosed quickly to help minimize its effects.
Therefore, scleroderma is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can drastically affect an individual quality of life, lead to more serious health complications, and in some cases, be fatal. It is important for anyone with symptoms of scleroderma to be closely monitored by a doctor to ensure they receive the best possible care and treatment.
How debilitating is scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a chronic condition that can cause a range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are skin thickening, pain and inflamed joints, and Raynaud’s phenomenon. In more severe cases, scleroderma can cause organ damage, pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease.
The severity of symptoms, as well as how disabling scleroderma is, can vary greatly from person to person. Some people may only experience mild, localized symptoms while others can be severely debilitated and require intensive medical interventions.
The effects of scleroderma on physical health can severely reduce quality of life, in addition to causing pain and discomfort. People with scleroderma can experience mobility and energy issues, leading to difficulties in completing daily tasks and maintaining normal functioning.
Psychological effects can include depression, anxiety, and other mental health complications.
Fortunately, treatments for scleroderma have improved, with modern therapies focused on targeting specific symptoms and improving quality of life. Working with a healthcare team is important for managing the condition, and support from family, friends and other scleroderma patients may be beneficial.
Does scleroderma qualify for disability?
Yes, scleroderma can qualify for disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes scleroderma as a disability and can grant Social Security disability benefits to those suffering from it.
To qualify for disability benefits, an individual must demonstrate that the condition has caused significant physical or mental limitations that prevent them from performing any substantial gainful activity for at least 12 months.
SSA considers scleroderma to be a serious connective tissue disorder. Symptoms may vary widely for individuals, with some experiencing serious skin conditions, Raynaud’s phenomenon, joint pain and stiffness, and severely restricted blood vessels.
The skin can harden and tighten, making it difficult to move the arms, legs, or other body parts. The condition may also affect internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and digestive system.
To qualify for disability, the individual must first be diagnosed with scleroderma and provide documented medical evidence supporting the diagnosis, the severity of the condition, and the resulting impairments.
Individuals may also need to provide evidence of treatments, hospitalizations, lab results, or other medical evidence to support the diagnosis and the severity of their symptoms. The medical evidence must demonstrate that the individual is unable to work because the condition significantly affects activities of daily living, the ability to perform work tasks, or the ability to perform any job.
Additionally, the individual must demonstrate that they have been unable to sustain gainful employment for at least 12 months due to the disability.
If an individual is able to meet all the qualifications, they may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. Additionally, Medicare may be available to individuals who have received Social Security benefits for 24 months.
Which organ is more involved in scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes hardening of the skin and other organs. It is primarily an inflammatory disorder of the body’s connective tissue and affects the skin, joints, blood vessels, and muscles.
The organ most affected by scleroderma is the skin, due to the formation of hard patches and tissue damage. However, other organs may also be involved, including the lungs, kidneys, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and esophagus.
In the lungs, scleroderma can cause shortness of breath, damage to the air sacs, and restrictive lung disease. In the kidneys, it can cause high blood pressure and kidney failure. In the heart, it can lead to arrhythmias, myocardial scarring, and pericardial effusion.
In the gastrointestinal tract, it can cause eosinophilic proctocolitis, malabsorption, and dysmotility. In the esophagus, it can cause dysphagia and stricture formation.
With scleroderma, the body produces large amounts of collagen, causing tissue scarring and hardening. This collagen deposition can cause tissue fibrosis, inflammation, and thickening of organs and tissues, resulting in organ dysfunction.
It is important to monitor scleroderma, as it can cause organ damage that can be difficult to repair or reverse. It is essential to receive evaluation and ongoing monitoring from your doctor.
What does scleroderma do to your organs?
Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the connective tissue in the skin and can also affect other organs such as the lungs, heart, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. In people with scleroderma, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, leading to a build-up of scar tissue throughout the body.
This scar tissue can harden, narrow, and damage organs, making it difficult for them to function properly.
In the lungs, scleroderma can reduce the amount of air that is exchanged each time a person takes a breath, leading to shortness of breath and poor lung function. It can also affect the heart and make it harder for it to pump enough blood throughout the body.
Scleroderma can also damage the kidneys, leading to kidney disease, as well as damage the gastrointestinal tract, leading to poor digestion and nutritional deficiencies.
In addition to physical effects, scleroderma can also take an emotional toll, as it is often associated with fatigue, depression, and other difficult symptoms. It is a long-term condition that can cause significant disruptions to a person’s life, making it important to work closely with a healthcare team to manage its symptoms and address any organ damage that has occurred.
What is the difference between scleroderma and systemic sclerosis?
Scleroderma and systemic sclerosis are both autoimmune diseases that cause hardening of the skin and connective tissue. However, systemic sclerosis is a more severe form of scleroderma that can lead to scarring and thickening of the skin and other organs throughout the body.
Symptoms of systemic sclerosis include tightness and thickening of the skin, pain and stiffness in muscles and joints, and problems with the digestive tract. Additionally, systemic sclerosis can cause damage to the blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs, which can lead to organ failure and death.
Scleroderma, on the other hand, does not typically lead to as severe symptoms and does not typically damage the organs. Symptoms of scleroderma may include thickening and hardening of the skin, musculoskeletal pain, and Raynaud’s phenomena, which is a condition in which the fingers change color in response to temperature changes or emotions.