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Systemic Sclerosis

Arthritis Northwest PLLC -  - Rheumatology

Arthritis Northwest PLLC

Rheumatology located in Spokane, WA & Spokane Valley, WA

Systemic sclerosis is the most severe type of scleroderma, a disease in which scar tissue builds up on your skin and sometimes within your organs. The experienced rheumatologists at Arthritis Northwest PLLC in Spokane, Washington, diagnose systemic sclerosis and offer the best in patient-centered care. Call the office to schedule your appointment today. Or, visit us online.

Systemic Sclerosis Q & A

What is systemic sclerosis?

Systemic sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which your body's immune system destroys healthy tissue. It's the most serious form of scleroderma, where your body produces too much collagen, a protein that can accumulate and cause fibrosis (scar tissue buildup). 

Localized scleroderma, the less severe form, generally only affects the skin. Systemic sclerosis can affect the skin as well as your joints, muscles, lungs, kidneys, and other parts of your body. 

What are the symptoms of systemic sclerosis?

Systemic sclerosis commonly starts in the skin, which may become hard, thick, and shiny. Usually, these symptoms are most prominent in your fingers, hands, and toes. You may also experience skin changes in your face, arms, legs, and torso. 

Systemic sclerosis causes different symptoms depending on its subtype. 

Limited cutaneous systemic scleroderma

Limited cutaneous systemic scleroderma causes skin to thicken and tighten, usually only in the fingers and toes. You may also develop hard nodules under your skin, Raynaud's phenomenon, esophageal movement issues, telangiectasia, and pulmonary hypertension. 

Diffuse cutaneous systemic scleroderma

Diffuse cutaneous systemic scleroderma causes skin tightening and thickening, too, but it encompasses larger areas of skin, including the torso, arms, and legs. It usually affects your internal organs, particularly the lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 

Systemic sclerosis sine scleroderma

Systemic sclerosis sine scleroderma occurs when you don't have skin symptoms but do have damage in one or more of your internal organs.

Many people only have skin symptoms in the early stages of systemic sclerosis, but the disease can progress to cause issues including joint pain, stiffness, diarrhea, and problems breathing and swallowing.

Your symptoms may be mild or severe. But even milder manifestations of systemic sclerosis require treatment to prevent progression and manage symptoms. 

How is systemic sclerosis diagnosed?

Systemic sclerosis diagnosis includes a physical exam to look for skin changes characteristic of scleroderma as well as other symptoms, such as Raynaud's phenomenon, calcium nodules under the skin, and telangiectasia. 

You likely need blood tests and may require X-rays and digital infrared thermal imaging as well.

How is systemic sclerosis treated?

Systemic sclerosis treatment depends upon the type of the disease and your symptoms. Unfortunately, drugs that successfully treat other autoimmune diseases typically aren't helpful for systemic sclerosis.

But the experts at Arthritis Northwest PLLC can treat your individual symptoms while helping you to avoid complications. Depending on your symptoms, you may need medication to open your blood vessels, antacids, blood pressure medication, or anti-inflammatory drugs. 

Infusion therapy, available in the comfortable, on-site infusion room, can give you necessary medications intravenously. Physical therapy can help preserve function. Many patients find naturopathic medicine beneficial too. 

Book an appointment at Arthritis Northwest PLLC by phone today. Or, visit us online.