8 Scleroderma-Related Conditions You Should Look Out For

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According to the Scleroderma Foundation, here are some scleroderma-related conditions you should look out for:

1. Gastrointestinal Issues

Individuals living with scleroderma may experience some irregularities ranging from the mouth to the anal canal of the gastrointestinal tract and digestive tract. Thickening and scarring (fibrosis) of the tissue in these areas occurs due to the overproduction of collagen and can lead to weakened muscles and slow movement of food through the digestive system (dysmotility).

2. Gastrointestinal Issues: Esophageal Dysfunction

When we eat, food goes from the mouth, down the throat and into the stomach through the tube known as the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter should act like a trap door, preventing food from coming back up the esophagus after it’s entered the stomach.

However, people with scleroderma often find that this trap door doesn’t work correctly and they experience a backwash of acid and a burning sensation (also known as heartburn) as the food and stomach acid comes back up the esophagus.

This process may cause injury to the lower portion of the esophagus.

MORE: The history of scleroderma

3. Gastrointestinal Issues: Swallowing Difficulties

People living with scleroderma can experience swallowing difficulties due to how slow food moves through their digestive system and the esophagus space becoming more narrow.

To help with this condition, doctors advise eating slowly and making sure all food is thoroughly chewed before swallowing. Choosing soft foods that are easy to swallow will also help.

4. Gastrointestinal Issues: Diarrhea

Weakened muscles may result in food not being pushed through the small intestines efficiently. This can result in damage to the muscles in the small bowel which may lead to a build-up of bacteria. This bacteria can cause problems such as bloating, pain and diarrhea.

If food is left in the bowel, the nutrients may not be fully absorbed by the body which can lead to issues such as stool abnormalities and weight loss.

MORE: Video guide to creating a chronic illness survival pack

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. Symptoms of lung involvement may include shortness of breath, a persistent cough and an intolerance to exercise.

Thickening of the lung tissue, fibrosis or scarring may happen due to collagen overproduction of collagen which makes it more difficult for the oxygen to travel into the bloodstream. Also, the weakening of respiratory muscles can impact 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.

MORE: 10 parts of the body affected by scleroderma

7. Raynaud’s Phenomenon

One of the most common early symptoms of scleroderma is Raynaud’s phenomenon which primarily affects the hands and feet making them extremely sensitive to temperature changes.

Although it’s not restricted to scleroderma, almost 90 percent of those living with scleroderma experience Raynaud’s phenomenon.

8. Sjögren Syndrome

Sjögren syndrome usually presents itself as a reduction in secretions of the tear and salivary glands, which are vital for lubricating the mouth and eyes. This can lead to problems with inflammation and irritation in the eyes, and speech and swallowing difficulties.

This lack of secretions can also involve other areas of the body, such as the vagina.

MORE: Five ways you can help raise awareness of scleroderma

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.