Limited scleroderma is a mild subtype of systemic scleroderma — skin thickening is less widespread and typically only in the fingers, hands, and face. Limited scleroderma develops gradually over years and may present only minor health issues. However, it can affect the digestive tract, the lungs, or the heart. About 50 percent of people with scleroderma have limited systemic scleroderma.
Scleroderma is a serious autoimmune disorder in which the immune system stimulates the production of too much collagen. This overproduction of collagen builds in the skin and internal organs, limiting function.
The disease is more common among Caucasians, and up to four times more common among women than men. Genetic factors or exposure to toxins may be risk factors, as could be a family history of autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Limited scleroderma is also known as CREST syndrome. The acronym stands for:
- C – calcinosis (calcium deposits under the skin and in tissues)
- R – Raynaud’s phenomenon (usually associated with cold intolerance and stress)
- E – esophageal dysfunction (causes heartburn)
- S – sclerodactyly (thick skin on the fingers)
- T – telangiectasias (enlarged blood vessels that appear as red spots on the skin)
Currently, the disease has no cure but many treatments are available to help manage symptoms and prevent complications. These range from topical antibiotics and blood pressure medications to physical therapy.
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