Algerian researchers have shed further light on the co-existence of hypertension in scleroderma and what it could mean to the progression of the disorder. Scleroderma is chronic hardening of the skin and connective tissues that occurs in the condition systemic sclerosis. Hypertension is another frequent symptom of the disease, one that is particularly concerning because it is often a first sign of eventual renal (kidney) failure.
Systemic sclerosis is a connective tissue disease that affects many different parts of the body, including the skin. It is characterized by diseased blood vessels (vasculopathy) and fibrosis — the thickening and scarring of connective tissue. Because blood vessels are affected as well as skin, it is not surprising that hypertension is a frequent consequence of systemic sclerosis and scleroderma.
The study, titled “Hypertension in scleroderma: A vital emergency,” appeared in the French language journal Annales de Cardiologie et d’Angéiologie. The researchers, working at the université d’Alger, studied 60 patients age 16 and older with systemic scleroderma from January 2008 to May 2012. The study participants met classification of Leroy and Medsger modified, a standard method of diagnosing systemic sclerosis. They measured blood pressure and the existence of hypertension.
A total of 50 women and 10 men participated in the study. Sixteen patients (26.7%) had hypertension. Of these, 12 eventually developed renal failure and five had a scleroderma renal crisis (SRC). An SRC refers to life-threatening kidney failure. Three of the participants experienced vascular nephropathies (damage to the kidneys), four chronic kidney failure (CKD), including three deaths from kidney failure.
In their report, the scientists concluded that “Hypertension is a major warning sign that under no circumstances should [be overlooked].
People with systemic sclerosis and hypertension require careful monitoring and immediate treatment, since based on the current study, hypertension is a sign that potentially severe and fatal medical conditions will likely develop.
Scleroderma is a relatively rare condition in which the body’s immune system launches an attack on its own tissues. Although treatments are available to reduce the symptoms, there is no cure for the condition. Treatment typically involves blocking the immune response, improving blood circulation, and attempts to stop the skin symptoms from getting worse.
Two types of systemic scleroderma exist: localized and systemic. Systemic scleroderma is serious and life-threatening, but localized scleroderma is more manageable. Further insights into the progression and treatment of scleroderma are greatly needed to help manage it, so the current study adds to existing knowledge that can help doctors to treat the disease.