Scleroderma can affect various parts of your body and the symptoms may vary widely. Here’s your guide to the many symptoms of scleroderma and the methods to counter them.
Scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is a term used to refer to a group of rare diseases that causes hardening of your skin and connective tissues. This disease usually occurs in people aged between 30-50 years, and is more commonly found in women than men. Scleroderma is a chronic disease, and while it is characterized by tight, hard patches of skin, it can also have an effect on other parts of your body. The symptoms of scleroderma can vary for different patients, depending on which parts of the body have been affected. The symptoms can also range from being mild in some people to life-threateningly serious in other cases.
Although there is no cure at present for scleroderma, there are treatments available to target specific symptoms and keep them under control. As the signs and symptoms of this health disorder vary greatly, it can be quite confusing for people to know whether the symptoms are associated to scleroderma or some other disease. Here are some of the symptoms of scleroderma that you need to be aware of, and what you can do to manage the symptoms and reduce your discomfort.
Hardening of the skin and Raynaud’s phenomenon
The tightening of your skin is one of the hallmark symptoms of scleroderma, and this can make your daily activities tougher. Keep your skin well moisturized at all times, and avoid harsh soaps or detergents. When taking a bath, cleaning, or washing, avoid using water that is extreme in temperature. If you are stepping out, ensure that you wear sunscreen and protective clothing as exposure to the outdoor elements can make your skin problems worse.
In addition, a majority of scleroderma patients (approximately 90 percent) experience a condition known as ‘Raynaud’s Phenomenon’—in which blood flow is restricted to the hands and feet, causing numbness, pain, and cold. Exercising regularly can help in improving the blood circulation in your body and provide relief from this phenomenon. Exposure to the cold can trigger a Raynaud’s attack, so remember to dress in warm clothes, layer up, and keep gloves and socks handy. Avoid sitting in a room where air conditioning is on, and avoid using cold water. Another trigger of this phenomenon is stress, so try to reduce stress from daily life by practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, biofeedback, and by doing activities that you love. If this condition gets too severe, you can even consider moving to a warmer place. Include plenty of raw foods (especially dark, leafy green vegetables) in your diet and stay away from foods that are fried or high in fat.
Stiff, swollen, and painful joints
Scleroderma can also cause pain and inflammation in your joints, and keeping your joints strong and flexible can go a long way in combating this scleroderma symptom. Consult a physical therapist to chalk out an ideal exercise routine for you, and stick to it so that you regularly practice stretching exercises. This can not only be helpful in improving bird circulation and maintaining range of motion in your joints, but also minimize joint contractures as well. Moreover, regular physical activity acts as a mood lifter and contributes to your overall well-being. You can combine physical activities that you love doing, such as swimming, brisk walking, or a jog on the beach. Therapeutic massages by a certified professional, warm whirlpool baths, and applying molten paraffin application to your hands are some other ways in which you can keep this scleroderma symptom under control. You can also try herbal remedies such as turmeric and ginger, which are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Talk to your doctor or a nutrition expert about foods that can help reduce your joint pain and inflammation, and the foods that you should stay away from. Keep your doctor in the loop about any natural remedy or alternative treatments that you are considering, as certain herbs may interact with other medications you are on.
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