June is Scleroderma Awareness Month!
Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases.
The word “scleroderma” comes from two Greek words: “sclero” meaning hard, and “derma” meaning skin. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease. The disease has been called “progressive systemic sclerosis,” but the use of that term has been discouraged since it has been found that scleroderma is not necessarily progressive. The disease varies from patient-to-patient.
Scleroderma is not contagious, infectious, cancerous or malignant. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life-threatening. The seriousness will depend on the parts of the body that are affected, and the extent to which they are affected. A mild case can become more serious if not properly treated.
Prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified physicians may minimize the symptoms of scleroderma and lessen the chance for irreversible damage.
It’s estimated that about 300,000 Americans have scleroderma. About one third of those people have the systemic form of scleroderma. Since scleroderma presents with symptoms similar to other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis is difficult. There may be many misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cases.
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