Mobile-Friendly: 8 Scleroderma-Related Conditions
According to the Scleroderma Foundation, here are some scleroderma-related conditions to be aware of:
1. Gastrointestinal issues
People with systemic scleroderma may experience some digestive system and gastrointestinal tract irregularities that range from the mouth to the anal canal. Thickening and fibrosis (or scarring) of the tissues may happen because of an overproduction of collagen that usually occurs with scleroderma. All combined, muscles may become weakened and lead to abnormally slow movement of food (dysmotility) through 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) because 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’s best to eat slowly and make sure all food is thoroughly chewed before swallowing.
4. Gastrointestinal issues: Diarrhea
Because 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 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 that often occurs and may lead to weight loss and stool abnormalities is improperly absorbed nutrients.
5. Gastrointestinal issues: Constipation
On the other hand, the colon’s weak wall or scarred muscles may cause difficulties for the bowel, leading 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 because of the overproduction of collagen that usually occurs in scleroderma patients. This makes it more difficult for oxygen to travel into the bloodstream. Also, weakening of respiratory muscles can decrease lung function.
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’s phenomenon. Although it’s not restricted to scleroderma, almost 90 percent of systemic scleroderma patients deal with Raynaud’s 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 speaking and swallowing, a reduced sense of taste, or even a pronounced increase in tooth decay and cavities.
Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.