5 Signs and Symptoms Used in Diagnosing Scleroderma

May 7th 2016

It is common to experience mild symptoms of scleroderma that may never lead to a diagnosis of the condition. Physicians determine the severity of your symptoms and the length of time you have endured these changes in your skin and conduct blood tests and tissue samples to determine if you have one or more types of scleroderma. Patients with symptoms of the disease should consult with a physician for further testing.

Hardened, Tight Skin

People with certain types of scleroderma may notice their skin becomes tight and hardened on their arms, legs, fingers, toes and sometimes the neck and face. Your skin may also look shiny, and it may become difficult to open your mouth or bend your fingers.

Red Spots and Lines

Tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin typically swell when you are diagnosed with scleroderma. Small red spots or lines may appear on the skin as a result of the swelling. The lines and spots commonly appear on the face and hands and are not usually painful.

Difficulty Swallowing

Scleroderma attacks the connective tissues, which could result in problems with your esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach and mouth. You may experience problems swallowing because the muscles in the lower and upper esophagus are not functioning as they should. Some people also have scarring or inflammation of the esophageal tissues as well as heartburn.

Skin Bumps

People with certain types of scleroderma may develop tiny calcium deposits under the skin on the fingers, knees and elbows. Small bumps under the skin often appear on the affected areas of the skin. Your skin may be tender to the touch on the affected areas, and there is also the risk of a skin infection due to the calcium deposits.

Skin Color Changes

Scleroderma can cause Raynaud's phenomenon, a condition where the fingers and toes spasm as the small blood vessels respond to emotional stress or cold temperatures. The stress to the skin blocks the flow of the blood and can turn the skin white, blue, cold and numb. Your skin is likely to throb and tingle and turn red once circulation improves.

Conclusion

Scleroderma is a chronic disease of the connective tissue classified as an autoimmune rheumatic disease. The condition is often diagnosed through lab tests that sample your blood for specific antibodies and a skin biopsy that involves taking samples of skin for laboratory evaluation. Physicians also evaluate the symptoms patients experience to accurately diagnose one or more types of scleroderma. Symptoms often vary significantly based on your overall health condition and the type of scleroderma diagnosis.

Sources

Scleroderma.org "What is scleroderma?" http://www.scleroderma.org/site/PageNavigator/patients_whatis.html#.VdUaGyxViko
MayoClinic.org "Limited scleroderma (CREST syndrome)" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crest-syndrome/basics/symptoms/con-20031524
ClevelandClinicMedEd.com "Systemic scleroderma" http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/rheumatology/systemic-sclerosis/Default.htm

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