The forms of scleroderma
There are two major types of Systemic Sclerosis:
1 Limited Scleroderma
This is a milder form of scleroderma which usually only involves the hands and face. It is also known as CREST syndrome:
C Calcinosis cutis (calcium deposits under the skin)
The calcium under the skin can be painful and can break the surface of the skin. It is often found at the elbows, knees and fingers.
R Raynaud (finger discoloration upon exposure to cold)
Raynaud’s is when the tips of your fingers turn white, numb, and cold when you are exposed to the cold or are under stress. It happens because the small vessels in your fingers narrow and decrease the amount of blood going to the fingertips.
E Esophageal dysmotility (disorder affecting 2/3 of the lower esophagus)
The esophagus is the swallowing tube connecting the mouth to the stomach. In scleroderma, the muscles that normally help move food down the tube are not working as well as normal. This can cause trouble swallowing and acid reflux.
S Sclerodactyly (thick, tight skin of the fingers; – pudgy fingers)
The skin becomes thick and fingers may become more difficult to bend.
T Telangiectasia (tiny dilated blood vessels visible on the face and hands)
Telangiectasia is seen when small blood vessels swell near the skin surface and form small red spots. The spots are not painful.
2 Diffuse Scleroderma
Diffuse scleroderma is a more severe type of scleroderma. There is usually more skin thickening, and more skin is involved. It also often involves internal organs. The skin, digestive system, heart, lungs and kidneys are the most commonly affected organs which may be harmed in scleroderma. At first, these complications may not have any symptoms. There is also a lot of variability in which organs are affected from person to person.
Systemic sclerosis does not only affect the body and internal organs, but also greatly reduces the quality of life of patients, who often experience pain, fatigue and shortness of breath in their everyday activities.
Fast Facts about Scleroderma:
- Scleroderma is found throughout the world. About 4 in 10,000 people have scleroderma.
- Scleroderma is 3-5 times more common in women than men.
- The disease is most commonly diagnosed between ages 30-50, but it can also strike children and people of all age groups.
- Scleroderma is not contagious.
- Both limited and diffuse scleroderma is associated with a significant reduction in life expectancy. For people who have mostly skin involvement and no major organs involved, the long-term outlook is more favourable.
- It is still unknown what exactly causes this autoimmune disease.