Hardening of skin or scleroderma is a condition that develops in a person with an overactive immune system, that is, an immune system that mistakenly attacks the healthy cells of the body. In this case the immune system attacks the inner linings that remain present in tiny blood vessels and tissues. When this happens the collagen (the skin protein) gets activated and is produced in surplus amount thereby leading to skin hardening, development of scar tissues.
A person suffering from scleroderma can feel pain due to inflammation. This disorder could be inherited. Environmental factors can also lead to the development of this disorder. For example certain types of viruses can predispose a person to developing scleroderma. It does not mean that hardening of the skin is limited to the upper surface of the skin. It can also occur in the kidneys.
There are two categories into which this disorder is divided. One is localized scleroderma and the other one is systematic sclerosis. Localized scleroderma is the hardening of the skin which is area-specific. It happens in certain areas of the outer skin and remains there as hardened, pigmented patches. They usually do not spread beyond the set area. On the other hand systematic sclerosis is a condition whereby the hardening of the skin progresses beyond the area which is initially affected. This mainly happens on the face, the chest, the back, the abdomen and the flanks. It can also affect internal organs such as esophagus, bowels, heart, lungs and kidneys.
Medications will not completely remove scleroderma, but they will help to reduce the symptoms of this disorder that also includes organ damage. Moisturizers, corticosteroid creams, colchicines can help greatly to reduce skin inflammation and skin hardness. The doctor can prescribe medications to better blood flow, improve the function of the bowels and the esophagus, regulate blood pressure and promote fruitful renal functions.
Hardness of the skin can develop inflammation. To treat these, anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers can also be given. Scleroderma that affects the internal organs can lead to gastrointestinal problems. In such cases antibiotics and antacids might be given to the patient. This disorder narrows down the esophagus. A catheter might be used from time to time to expand the esophagus.
Aspirin, nifedipine, nicardipine, ditiazem are some of the medical compounds that open up the arteries that become contracted as a result of scleroderma. High blood pressure is a common symptom of hardening of skin. Hence anti-coagulation medicines might be prescribed. Medicines to control the hyperactive immune system include penicillamine, azathiprine, methotrexate etc. There is no single medicine to cure hardening of skin. The medicines are prescribed on the basis of the symptoms observed.
Hardening of the skin in concentrated areas is the obvious symptom of scleroderma. Apart from that a person might feel pain around the joints. This condition is also accompanied by digestive disorders, and renal, cardiac or lungs disorders. Therefore one should be on a look-out for these symptoms so that early intervention can be attempted.
Corns also lead to hardness of the skin. But the treatment of corns is not similar to the treatment of scleroderma. Similarly scleroderma treatment might not work for people with skin that is too sensitive. In this case the treatment mode would be different.
There are certain side effects of certain medications. For example, colchicines can cause side effects like diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, hair loss etc. Therefore one must talk to the doctor regarding the dosage of the medicines.
Post-treatment guidelines include the proper taking of the medicines prescribed on part of the patient.
One cannot completely recover from hardness of skin. Medicines will work to reduce the intensity of the symptoms. After taking the medicines for at least a month, the patient will observe positive effect.
Medicines can cost anywhere between INR 500 to INR 1500 (per strip).
No the treatment is not permanent, because with medicines the symptoms will only subside partially. There is no treatment available to eliminate scleroderma completely.
Oxide of Alum, black sulphide of Antimony, calcarea carbonica, are some of the components that homeopathic medicines use to treat scleroderma.