This is the transcript from today’s podcast, above.
Welcome to your autoimmune wellness coach podcast. I am your host Brenda Mueller and I am going to be talking about living a successful and healthy life while having autoimmune disorders. I will be sharing information on the many different autoimmune disorders, my thoughts on weight loss, exercise, and a positive mindset.
Sit back, relax and enjoy today’s podcast.
Today’s podcast is for June 1st. Do you know what the first Friday in June is known for? It’s donut day! I love donuts. I’m a big fan of the cake donuts with white frosting and sprinkles.
How did donut day get started?
National Donut Day, celebrated in the United States, is on the first Friday of June of each year, succeeding the Doughnut event created by The Salvation Army, in Chicago in 1938 to honor those of their members, who served doughnuts to soldiers, during World War one. The holiday celebrates the doughnut. Many American doughnut stores offer free doughnuts on National Doughnut Day.
I don’t know if any of my local stores are giving them away, but I might have to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts and get one!
There are many things to be aware of for the month of June. Many of them have to do with our health and health issues. Today I’m going to focus on Scleroderma, because June is scleroderma awareness month. The awareness ribbon for scleroderma is the color teal.
So what is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The word “scleroderma” comes from two Greek words. “sclero,” meaning hard, and “derma,” meaning skin. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease. It is also called, Crest Syndrome.
The term, scleroderma, was first penned in 1836 by, Giovambattista Fantonetti, who described the symptoms of a patient with dark, leathery skin that led to skin tightening and a decrease in the range of joint motion.
Although the term we use to describe the condition today was not first used until the 19th century, there have been some records of the condition and its characteristic symptoms throughout history, as early as 400 BC.
Here is a quick overview of the disease.
- Fewer than 200,000 US cases per year are diagnosed.
- Treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured.
- It requires a medical diagnosis.
- Lab tests or imaging are always required.
- It is a Chronic disease. It can last for years or be lifelong.
- Scleroderma is a group of rare diseases that more often affects women.
- Women are more likely to be affected than males with a relative risk 4 to 9 times higher. It commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Symptoms include tightening of the skin, joint pain, exaggerated response to cold, Raynaud’s disease, and heartburn.
- Treatments include medication, physical therapy, and surgery.
- Scleroderma is not contagious, an infection or a cancer. There are an estimated 300,000 people in the United States who have scleroderma. It is estimated that 2.5 million people worldwide have scleroderma, and in the United Kingdom, there are 12,000 people diagnosed. In the United States about one third of those people have the systemic form of the disease. Since the symptoms of scleroderma are similar to those of other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis is difficult. There also may be many misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed cases.
Let’s take a closer look at Scleroderma.
Scleroderma’s signs and symptoms vary, depending on which parts of your body are involved.
Nearly everyone who has scleroderma experiences a hardening and tightening of patches of skin. These patches may be shaped like ovals or straight lines, or cover wide areas of the trunk and limbs. The number, location and size of the patches vary by type of scleroderma. Skin can appear shiny because it’s so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
One of the earliest signs of scleroderma is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, which can cause numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes. Called Raynaud’s disease, this condition also occurs in people who don’t have scleroderma. I don’t have scleroderma, but I do have Raynaud’s disease.
In addition to acid reflux, which can damage the section of esophagus nearest the stomach, some people with scleroderma may also have problems absorbing nutrients if their intestinal muscles aren’t moving food properly through the intestines.
Scleroderma can affect the function of the heart, lungs or kidneys to varying degrees. These problems, if left untreated, can become life-threatening.
Let’s see what causes Scleroderma.
Scleroderma is caused by over production and accumulation of collagen in the body’s tissues.
Collagen is a fibrous type of protein that makes up your body’s connective tissues, including your skin.
Doctors aren’t certain what stimulates this abnormal collagen production, but the body’s immune system appears to play a role. In some genetically susceptible people, symptoms may be triggered by exposure to certain types of pesticides, epoxy resins or solvents.
What are the complications of Scleroderma.
Scleroderma complications range from mild to severe.
The variety of Raynaud’s disease that occurs with scleroderma can be so severe, that the restricted blood flow permanently damages the tissue at the fingertips, causing pits, skin sores, or ulcers. In some cases, gangrene, and amputation may follow.
Scarring of lung tissue, pulmonary fibrosis, can result in reduced lung function, reduced ability to breathe, and reduced tolerance for exercise.
You may also develop high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs, known as pulmonary hypertension.
When scleroderma affects your kidneys, you can develop elevated blood pressure, and an increased level of protein in your urine. More-serious effects of kidney complications may include renal crisis, which involves a sudden increase in blood pressure, and rapid kidney failure.
Scarring of the heart tissue increases your risk of abnormal heartbeats, arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure, and can cause inflammation of the membranous sac surrounding your heart, known as the pericarditis.
Scleroderma can also raise the pressure on the right side of your heart, and cause it to wear out.
Severe tightening of facial skin can cause your mouth to become smaller, and narrower, which may make it hard to brush your teeth, or to even have them professionally cleaned. People who have scleroderma, often don’t produce normal amounts of saliva, so the risk of dental decay increases even more. I have this problem with Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Digestive problems associated with scleroderma can lead to acid reflux, and difficulty swallowing. Some people describe feeling as if food gets stuck midway down the esophagus, as well as bouts of constipation alternating with episodes of diarrhea. I get the feeling of food being stuck in my esophagus, quite often. I get that feeling after I take vitamins, too.
Men who have scleroderma often experience erectile dysfunction. Scleroderma may also affect the sexual function of women, by decreasing sexual lubrication and constricting the vaginal opening.
How is Scleroderma diagnosed?
After a thorough physical exam, the doctor may suggest blood tests to check for elevated blood levels of certain antibodies produced by the immune system. He or she may remove a small tissue sample (biopsy) of the affected skin so that it can be examined in the laboratory for abnormalities.
A new diagnosis of scleroderma doesn’t have to be overwhelming, even though the disease is complex. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the disease’s effects can range from mild to severe.
The severity depends on which parts of the body and to what extent in which they are affected. A mild case can become serious if not properly treated. Quick and proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified physicians, may help minimize the symptoms of scleroderma and decrease the chance of irreversible damage.
Are there medications that can help?
No drug has been developed that can stop the underlying process of scleroderma, the over production of collagen. But a variety of medications can help control scleroderma symptoms or help prevent complications.
Contact The Scleroderma Foundation if you want to learn more about this debilitating disease.
If you are living with scleroderma and would like to share your story, please leave a your comment below.
And don’t forget to get yourself a donut!
- Living with Scleroderma
- June is Scleroderma Awareness Month Part 1
- June is Scleroderma Awareness Month Part 2
- Healthy Breakfast Donuts