8 Scleroderma-Related Conditions You Should Look Out For
According to the Scleroderma Foundation, here’s some scleroderma-related conditions you should look out for:
1 – Gastrointestinal Issues
Individuals living with systemic scleroderma may grow some irregularities from the mouth to the anal canal of the digestive system and gastrointestinal tract.
Also, thickening and fibrosis (or scarring) of the tissues may happen due to the overproduction of collagen that usually occurs in scleroderma patients.
All this combined can result in weakened muscles and lead to the abnormally slow movement of food (dysmotility) in the digestive process.
2 – Gastrointestinal Issues: Esophageal dysfunction
When we eat, food goes from the mouth and throat into the stomach through a tube called the esophagus.
The lower esophageal sphincter, or valve, acts like a gate preventing food from coming back up after passing to the stomach.
Often in systemic scleroderma patients, the gate doesn’t close correctly leaving a backwash of acid and a burning sensation (also know as heartburn) since the food and the stomach acid return into the esophagus.
This process may cause injuries in the lower portion of the esophagus.
3 – Gastrointestinal Issues: Swallowing difficulties
The abnormal slow motion of food and decreased space of the esophagus can result in some difficulties in swallowing.
To help with this condition, it would be best to eat slowly and make sure all food is thoroughly chewed before swallowing.
4 – Gastrointestinal Issues: Diarrhea
Since weakened muscles do not work effectively in pushing food through the bowel, systemic scleroderma patients may suffer damage to the muscles of the small bowel (small intestine).
A result of this could be an increase in bacteria, which ultimately may lead to diarrhea, bloating, a distended feeling, and some pain if the bowel is stretched.
Another problem which often occurs and may lead to weight loss and stool abnormalities is the fact that nutrients may not be absorbed properly into the body.
5 – Gastrointestinal Issues: Constipation
On the other hand, the colon’s weak wall or scarred muscles may cause some difficulties for the bowel to work properly, which can lead to constipation.
6 – Lung Involvement
A wide range of factors may cause lung involvement in systemic scleroderma.
Some symptoms of lung involvement may include shortness of breath, a decreased tolerance for exercise, and a persistent cough.
Thickening of the lung tissue, fibrosis or scarring may happen due to the overproduction of collagen that usually occurs in scleroderma patients.
This makes it more difficult for the oxygen to travel into the bloodstream. Also, the weakening of respiratory muscles can decrease lung function.
The damaged blood vessels may cause pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), and may result in additional strain on the heart resulting in heart failure.
7 – Raynaud Phenomenon
One of the most common early symptoms of systemic scleroderma is Raynaud phenomenon.
Although it’s not restricted to scleroderma, almost 90% of systemic scleroderma patients deal with it at one time or another.
8 – Sjögren Syndrome
Sjögren syndrome usually presents itself as a decrease in secretions of the tear and salivary glands, core to the lubrication of the mouth and eyes.
However, this lack of secretions can also involve other areas of the body, such as the vagina.
The unusual dryness may lead to serious irritation and inflammation of the eyes, difficulty in speaking and swallowing, a reduced sense of taste, or even a pronounced increase in tooth decay and cavities.
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