Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)

General or Other | Rheumatology | Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) (Disease)


Scleroderma is a chronic, autoimmune disease that most commonly affects middle-aged women. It can cause swelling and loss of skin elasticity and diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. It seems that some people are genetically predisposed to scleroderma, but the disease occurs only when certain factors or combination of environmental factors (exposure to certain chemicals, for example) triggers. Studies have found certain antibodies in patients with scleroderma not occur in other autoimmune diseases.

Research on how and why these antibodies appear will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms that cause disease. Despite a possible genetic component, is not considered hereditary disease, are rare cases in which two close relatives develop the disease.

Causes and Risk factors

The disease is caused by an overproduction of collagen in the connective tissue of the body. Collagen is normally responsible for maintaining skin suppleness and organs, but when produced in excess, causes tissue to become thick and immobile.

Scleroderma is classified as an autoimmune disease. These diseases occur when the immune system uses weapons to fight infection, including antibodies against the bodys healthy tissues. In scleroderma, the body produces specific antibodies.

Scleroderma means thick skin, but the disease is severe when it affects internal organs, lung tissue thickening, heart, kidneys, intestinal tract, muscles and joints. Stiffness can greatly affect the circulatory system, digestive and respiratory systems. Not known what causes scleroderma, but some studies suggest the involvement of both forms of onset of environmental factors and genetic those.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Scleroderma is not contagious. Occupational exposure to silica dust (not silicone) is considered involved in the development of scleroderma-like disease that occurs mainly in men. Exposure to a mixture of solvents used in paint thinner have been reported as causing an increased risk of scleroderma in women. Blood tests to detect these antibodies are useful in determining disease severity, although these antibodies are not present in all patients. ...