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National Scleroderma Awareness Month: Managing Systemic Sclerosis

National Scleroderma Awareness Month: Managing Systemic Sclerosis

We've covered many autoimmune diseases in this space, and it's always remarkable how many different pathways inflammation can take. In the case of scleroderma, this rheumatic autoimmune disease involves the thickening or tightening of the skin and the connective tissue under it, but many other symptoms may be present. Autoimmune diseases can be difficult to diagnose due to the variety of symptoms, and scleroderma is no exception. Due to this, research on the disease is limited and needs increased attention in order for doctors to better treat scleroderma.


Symptoms of Scleroderma

Scleroderma presents itself with a variety of symptoms:

  • Tightening of skin.
  • Joint pain.
  • Thickening and swelling of fingers.
  • Reynaud's phenomenon: pale fingers that become numb or tingle when exposed to cold or stress.
  • Limited mobility in the fingers, wrists, or elbows: caused by skin tightening.

The tightening of skin can appear in different ways: in small areas; as ovals or straight lines; over wider areas; or over entire limbs. The taut skin may appear dark or shiny, and it may limit movement.

An estimated 300,000 Americans have scleroderma, although the difficulty of diagnosis makes this number hard to pin down. About one-third of these patients have systemic scleroderma, the most serious form of the disease. There are two types of the disease, localized and systemic scleroderma.

Localized scleroderma

Typically only affecting the skin, localized scleroderma can spread to muscles, bones, and joints, but not to the internal organs. The following symptoms may appear:

  • Morphea: discolored skin patches.
  • Linear scleroderma: streaks or bands of thick, hard skin on the arms and legs.
  • En coup de sabre: linear scleroderma on the face or forehead.

Systemic scleroderma

The most serious form of the disease, systemic scleroderma can affect the skin, muscles, joints, blood vessels, and internal organs including the lungs, kidneys, and heart. The following symptoms may appear:

  • Calcium bumps: appear on bony areas, such as fingers, elbows, and knees.
  • Sores on fingertips and knuckles.
  • Noisy joints: a grating noise when attempting to move inflamed areas.
  • Esophageal issues: can lead to heartburn or trouble swallowing.
  • Lung scarring: can lead to shortness of breath.
  • High blood pressure: can affect the kidneys.
  • Heart failure.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms.

Reynaud's Phenomenon


As we've said, diagnosing scleroderma can be difficult because some of the symptoms are shared with other autoimmune and rheumatic disorders. Typically doctors will look for the following symptoms as part of an assessment of scleroderma:

  • Reynaud's phenomenon.
  • Skin thickening, swelling, and tightening.
  • Telangiectasias: enlarged blood vessels on the face, hands, and around nail beds.
  • Calcium deposits: most commonly on the skin.
  • Joint pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • High blood pressure: especially involving kidney problems.
  • Heartburn.
  • Digestive tract issues: difficulty swallowing; bloating and constipation; weight loss caused by poor nutrient absorption.

Scleroderma Awareness Month

Treatment and Management

Living with scleroderma is difficult, as there is no drug that has been shown to stop or reverse the hardening and thickening of skin, the major symptom of the disease. Other symptoms (such as heartburn, kidney disease, Reynaud's phenomenon, and joint and muscle pain) can be improved with drugs, but lifestyle management is one of the most common methods of treatment.

Some methods of pain and lifestyle management may include:

  • Physical and occupational therapy.
  • Lifestyle adaptation: to reduce the impact of physical limitations.
  • Exercise: to combat stiffness.
  • Heavier clothing in layers and avoiding cold: to combat stiffness.
  • Dietary changes: to minimize digestion issues.
  • Frequent moisturization: to prevent skin damage.
  • Family and mental health support: to improve self-image caused by the impact of scleroderma.

Mountain Ice Pain Relief Gel for Scleroderma

How Mountain Ice Can Help Those with Scleroderma

The combination of natural ingredients in Mountain Ice Pain Relief Gel also facilitates absorption of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving ingredients deep into the muscles and joints, allowing for increased blood flow and reduced swelling at the source of pain and not just at the surface of the skin. Reducing swelling and increasing blood flow helps to reduce the stiffness that characterizes scleroderma.

A number of Mountain Ice ingredients are renowned for their moisturizing ability and beneficial effects on skin cells. Green tea extract applied topically has been found to have positive effects on a number of inflammatory skin conditions. Hyaluronic acid has a vital role in the skin's extracellular matrix by binding water to collagen in skin cells for moisturization, and by helping to form new skin cells it's also necessary for repairing skin damage.

Mountain Ice also cools the top layer of the skin, which then numbs and blocks pain signals to the brain, providing pain relief. Thanks to its potential to reduce both the pain sensation and the inflammation that causes it, Mountain Ice can be a valuable option to explore for anyone seeking to reduce chronic pain.

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