Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by toughening most commonly in the skin and could also happen to other organs. The mild form of this known as morphea, although it can cripple its patients would tend not to be fatal. Another form of this which is systemic sclerosis, since it would affect the skin as well as would limit the functions of the affected organs could be fatal. As of now, there is no exact cause of this disease and most doctors would go by theories.
Scleroderma is found worldwide however; women are about four times as likely to have it more than men. This would also develop mostly between the ages of 30 and 60. The disease is quite rare as affecting only 14 out of every 1 million individuals worldwide. This disease also rarely affects children. This disease is quite evident among the native American Choctaw tribe and African-American females.
What Causes Scleroderma?
The cause of scleroderma still remains unknown, although medical experts have developed various theories on the causes of it. Some have said that it is largely genetic so if an individual has scleroderma, he puts his relatives at risk of having it. Others would say that it is environmental and is brought about by unwanted factors in the environment such as virus, bacteria and other similar factors. However, non of these theories are proven yet.
The result of this is that the immune system, instead of protecting the body would attack the tissues in the body causing the development of scar tissue on the affected areas. Although different cases of scleroderma would cause different symptoms, the most common ones would be the Raynaud’s phenomenon which would refer to the spasms of arteries supplying blood to the fingers, toes and face. For systemic scleroderma, this is coupled by limitation in the organ’s function.
How Is The Heart Involved In Scleroderma?
Scleroderma makes the tissues in your heart tougher than in turn would limit its functions. If the heart gets involved with scleroderma, then there will be limitations to its function. This is characterized by myocardial disease, arrhythmias or conduction system abnormalities. Even if it is not the heart that would get affected but rather the kidneys or lungs, that could still cause a lot of heart problems, the most common being hypertension. Being that, the heart is one of the most involved organs in scleroderma.
One who gets scleroderma should be expecting some heart problems since the heart is largely involved in it. Fortunately, this can be managed with the help of some doctors. Although there is still no guarantee that a patient would be completely free of scleroderma after medications, medications are made to help patients go by difficult symptoms that are brought to them by scleroderma.
How Is Heart Involvement In Scleroderma Managed?
There is no treatment for scleroderma instead, the approach to this is patient-specific and would depend on what the specific circumstances are. For heart involvement, the doctor would make use of medications such as calcium channel blockers, nifedipine, nicardipine and bosentan. For children who have it, the approach to treating them is a combination therapy of methotrexate, corticosteroids and cyclosporine.
If these would cause side effects, then different medications are used depending on what would suit the patient specifically. Patients with Raynaud’s should be aware that these medications could worsen their condition.