By: Vishal Mehta, B.Pharm, RPh

Scleroderma, also called systemic sclerosis, is a rare, autoimmune disease that affects one in every 2500 Canadians. Scleroderma is an ailment characterized by an excessive build-up of tissue collagen or scar tissue (fibrosis) in the organs, most prominently the skin. Although it can affect anyone, scleroderma is more frequently diagnosed in women and those with Indigenous or African heritage.

The most common form is called limited or localized scleroderma. It usually affects only the fingers, hands, forearms, or face. The second form of scleroderma, called diffuse or systemic scleroderma, often affects large areas of the body and internal organs. The disease can be life-threatening when it progresses to the lungs or heart.

The progression of scleroderma usually begins with the Raynaud phenomenon where restricted circulation and blood flow turn the patient’s fingers and toes white (sometimes blue) when cold. The skin on the patient’s fingers and face may then begin to swell and look puffy before hardening from the fibrosis. Depending on the severity of the disease, other symptoms may include digestive issues, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dry eyes and mouth, respiratory issues, and problems with the kidneys and lungs.

Although there is no cure for scleroderma, effective treatment options are available that target inflammation, autoimmunity, vascular disease, and tissue fibrosis, providing some relief of the symptoms and slowing the disease’s progression.

For more information about scleroderma, contact your family doctor, your pharmacist, or Scleroderma Canada.

Helping you feel better,