Skin should be soft and supple. What happens toskin when it thickens and tightens and becomes deformed and unyielding? Then the joints are affected by less flexibility and bending. Hands, elbows, and knees become stiff.
Scleroderma is believed to be an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system turns against one's own body. It's not known what prompts the immune system attack, although researchers believe scleroderma is probably caused by a genetic predisposition interacting with environmental stimulus.
Worst case scenario, hardening reaches into the internal organs with what could be life-threatening results. Kidneys, lungs, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and vascular system can become compromised as the organs grow rigid. According to the American College of Rheumatology, an estimated 200 to 300 people per million in the United States suffer from scleroderma. Some 12 to 20 new cases per million are diagnosed annually.
Localized scleroderma can take the form of reddish patches of skin that thicken into oval-shaped areas. The center of each patch becomes ivory colored with violet borders. The patches appear most often on the chest, stomach, and back but also can appear on the face, arms, and legs.
In the most serious cases, internal organs are affected. Kidneys quit working. Lungs stiffen, making it hard to take a breath. Hearts are unable to pump as efficiently. Doctors treat scleroderma by treating the complications it causes. One of the success stories in scleroderma treatment involves new autoimmune drugs that preserve kidney function. People with scleroderma used to die mainly from kidney disease, but these days they are more likely to die of lung problems.
Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is also a condition caused by hardening of the skin and joints. Have you been misdiagnosed with scleroderma when you really had NSF? Have you been treated with scleroderma drugs that could further fuel your NSF diagnosis and treatment? Do you have a medical malpractice case? Do you need a Pennsylvania lawyer?