logo
Helpline 0800 311 2576
OFFICE
020 7000 1925
HELP LINE
0800 311 2756
9.00am to 7.00pm
Calls from UK mainland FREE
Scleroderma Society Members´ Page
ContactDonateFAQsForumLocal groupsCalendarJoin usHome
preload graphic preload graphic preload graphic preload graphic preload graphic
About Us Helping You Support Us Personal journeys Health Professionals World Scleroderma Day 2015
Publications Newsletter Useful links

The gastro-intestinal tract in systemic sclerosis

The gastrointestinal tract or gut runs from top (mouth) to tail (anus). Its function is to allow intake, digestion and absorption of food and disposal of waste in the form of faeces. The gut is involved in up to 90% of patients with systemic sclerosis. Any part of the gut can be affected from mouth to anus. Gut involvement can occur at any time in the course of the disease and it can be progressive but not invariably so. Food is propelled along the gut through co-ordinated contractions of the muscles in the gut wall (peristalsis). In systemic sclerosis, thickening of the gut wall and atrophy (thinning) of the muscles can lead to failure of this process (dysmotility). These changes can occur at any part of the gut leading to a variety of symptoms depending on the sites affected.


Oesophagus
The oesophagus (gullet) is the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach. It is involved in most patients with systemic  sclerosis (80-90%) although does not always cause symptoms.


Main features

Typical symptoms

Investigations

Treatment
Many different treatments can be used and are often very effective. Practical changes, such as raising the head of the bed, can be very helpful to give immediate relief.

The stomach
The stomach is less commonly involved in systemic sclerosis.

The two main features are:

Symptoms

Investigations

Treatment

The small and large bowel
The small intestine is the part of the body that absorbs most of the nutrients from the food that is digested. The small bowel can be affected in a number of ways and can lead to reduced movement, reduced absorption, dilatation, diverticulae and overgrowth of bacteria (normally the small intestine has a very small number of bacteria). The colon’s main function is to reabsorb water and salts that have been secreted by the rest of the gut and  to dispose of the waste in the form of faeces.This can also be affected by dysmotility.

 

Symptoms

Investigations

Treatment

Anorectum
The rectum has the capacity to hold a volume of faeces until such a time that evacuation is possible. Continence is maintained through the help of the anal sphincters. The anorectum is the second most commonly affected part of the gut.


Main Features

Symptoms

Investigations

Treatment

This is tailored to individual’s symptoms and the abnormalities found.

Nutrition

Poor oral intake and weight loss can sometimes be a problem in patients with systemic sclerosis. Small but frequent meals and nutritional and vitamin supplements are often adequate treatment. Sometimes more extreme approaches are needed for patients with more severe weight loss and malnutrition who are unable to eat adequately by mouth, such as a small tube passed into the stomach, nasogastric tube, PEG or intravenous feeding. Often these are temporary measures.

The Scleroderma Society is affiliated to these not-for-profit organisations:

arma fesca Helplines Partnership National Voices

 

Please read our website disclaimer.