Systemic sclerosis is better known as scleroderma, and it’s a chronic autoimmune condition that affects your tissues. When your body makes and collects too much collagen, the protein in your connective tissues, it sustains multiple types of damage, but skin symptoms are widespread in patients.
About 300,000 people suffer from scleroderma, the majority are women, and about 100,000 have the systemic version of the disease. Systemic sclerosis can not only wreak havoc on your immune system and cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms, but it can also dampen your self-esteem, since skin problems are a primary symptom.
If you suffer from systemic scleroderma, know that you're in excellent hands at Rheumatology Solutions. Dr. William White, Dr. Thomas Hoffmann, Dr. Jeffrey Feinstein, and Dr. Kenneth DesRosier are all board-certified rheumatologists who have great expertise in identifying, diagnosing, and treating systemic scleroderma successfully.
How does systemic scleroderma affect your body?
Autoimmune diseases cause your immune system to go rogue rather than offer protection, so essentially your body goes to war with itself. Systemic sclerosis causes joint pain, dry cough, and problems breathing, hair loss, and diarrhea, among other things.
The symptoms that are outwardly apparent, though, are those that show on your skin:
- White lumps under the skin (calcium deposits)
- Dilated blood vessels that cause lacy patterns to appear on the skin
- Extremities turn white or blue when you’re cold or stressed (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Skin becomes shiny on the bony areas of your hands and near your mouth and nose
- Skin thickening
- Skin hardening and tightening
These skin problems are both physically painful and understandably make you self-conscious about showing your skin.
Unfortunately, systemic scleroderma can also impact your blood vessels, digestive system, and organs like your heart, kidneys, and lungs, in addition to your skin.
Tips for for caring for your skin if you have systemic sclerosis
There are plenty of things you can do, in addition to getting treatment at Rheumatology Solutions, to address the scleroderma skin problems that plague you. Here are steps developed by our doctors to help with these symptoms:
1. Mind your skin
Caring for your skin on a daily basis is part and parcel of living with systemic sclerosis. You want to do all you can to prevent circulation problems, which lead to skin problems.
A simple step you can take is to cover and warm any area of your skin that has sores on it or has thickened skin. This helps you heal by increasing your blood flow.
2. Enlist the services of a dermatologist
We can help you manage your systemic sclerosis with the most advanced treatments available, but since this condition disproportionately affects your skin and is complex, it’s a good idea to visit a skin specialist regularly.
By recruiting a dermatologist to your coordinated care team, you’re giving your skin an even better chance to heal.
3. Soothe, soothe, soothe
Scleroderma makes your skin delicate. Treat it carefully by washing gently and religiously applying calming moisturizers.
Use a moisturizing cream after your skin gets wet, whether that’s just washing your hands or taking a shower. If you’re a fan of baths, invest in some bath oil. You can’t overdo this step.
4. Protect your skin from injury
When you bump into something, systemic sclerosis can cause painful, hard calcium deposits under your skin, so be careful in your movements. If you already have calcium deposits, protect those too. If your skin breaks where they’re located, they can become infected.
5. Banish tobacco from your life
Using tobacco products weakens your skin, which is already compromised due to your scleroderma. The sooner you quit smoking, the better for your skin’s appearance and healing.
Some systemic sclerosis sufferers experience lung scarring from their condition. Don’t exacerbate your situation by smoking.
6. Focus on natural skin care products
If you use fragrance-free and gentle skin products, you’ll have less chance of having a negative reaction, like a rash, which is the last thing you need when dealing with scleroderma skin issues.
If you give your skin a good dose of TLC, you’ll reap many benefits, with improved systemic sclerosis skin symptoms being the most significant.
Treat your systemic sclerosis, now and over the long-term
We have your comfort and healing at heart when we treat you for systemic sclerosis. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and which systems they affect the most, we typically advise a mixture of self-care strategies.
These may include effective prescription medications, and connecting with other specialists, such as a gastroenterologist if you have digestive problems associated with your condition.
As the key members of your systemic sclerosis care team, we work with other clinicians routinely and communicate frequently about your overall treatment plan.
We’re eager to help you manage your systemic sclerosis, or make a diagnosis if you’re just beginning to experience symptoms.
Call our office in Northeast San Antonio, Texas, at 210-526-9798 to make an appointment, or use our convenient online booking tool. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.