Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition, involving the overproduction of collagen and blood vessel damage. It can cause physical disability and be life threatening as the skin, joints, tendons, and parts of internal organs can all be affected. Autoimmune conditions occur when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system.
- Around 1 in 10,000 people in the UK have scleroderma, with women affected four times as often as men. There are approximately 8,000 people with scleroderma in the UK. The complex nature of the condition can often lead to misdiagnosis, so the true number of people affected may be much higher.
- The onset of scleroderma is most frequent between the ages of 25 to 55 but it may affect any age group, from infants to the elderly.
- There are different types of scleroderma and symptoms can vary widely from person to person, but usually include hardening of the skin, swelling of the hands and feet, joint pain and stiffness and blood vessel damage leading to a physical over-reaction to cold or stress. The heart, oesophagus, blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, blood pressure and digestive system can all be affected resulting in a variety of other symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening or cause physical disability.
- The exact cause or causes of scleroderma are still unknown. Factors other than gender, such as race and ethnic background, may influence the risk of developing scleroderma, as well as the age of onset, and the pattern or severity of internal organ involvement.
- Greater investment in research is urgently needed to improve the future for people with scleroderma and to find a cure.
- There is currently no cure for this long term health condition, but proper treatment and management can make it possible for many people with scleroderma to lead full and productive lives.
- According to their severity, the symptoms of scleroderma are treated with drug therapy, physical therapy, surgery and self-management techniques.
- The Scleroderma Society is a UK charity dependent on public donations. The Society's aims are to:
• help and support people with scleroderma
• increase awareness of scleroderma
• fund scientific and medical research