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Do you ever get that sensation of your skin feeling tight like a drum? Notice your fingers swelling up like sausages? Scleroderma, which is a condition, can really affect your body’s tissues by causing them to become stiff and thick. While it’s not very common, recognizing the signs and symptoms can help you take control of your well being. 

In this blog post we’ll dive into the world of scleroderma, discussing its causes, risk factors and potential treatment options. We’ll also share some tips for managing symptoms at home so you can feel better despite the obstacles. So instead of shrugging it off, come along as we shine a light on scleroderma!

What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a condition where your skin and sometimes other tissues in your body are impacted by a disorder. It’s not very common. While we don’t know the cause we have a good understanding of how it works.

Scleroderma causes your immune system to go haywire!

Typically your immune system acts as a shield against infections and diseases. In conditions like scleroderma, it mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. In this scenario it stimulates the overproduction of collagen, a protein for building and supporting tissues. Collagen is necessary for skin health and connective tissues. An excess can lead to thickening and hardening. This thickening can result in waxy looking skin. In instances it can also affect organs potentially disrupting their function.

Different forms of Scleroderma

Scleroderma presents itself in two types;

  • Localized Scleroderma: This type targets areas like the skin with thickened patches or streaks that may resolve without spreading.
  • Systemic Scleroderma: A severe form that impacts the skin well as internal organs such as the lungs, digestive system, heart and kidneys. Different types of scleroderma can be classified based on how much of the body is affected and the specific pattern of involvement.

Early Signs of Scleroderma

As like other autoimmune conditions, the early signs are quite subtle, and in many cases, people usually overlook them. The symptoms might begin as simple as joint pain and stiffness. But we usually tend to dismiss them until they become more severe and affect our daily lives. So, here are the most common early signs of scleroderma:

  • Skin tightness and thickening, especially on the fingers and hands.
  • Change in the pigmentation on the skin. They can either become dark or light.
  • Numbness or a tingling feeling in the hands and feet.
  • Joint pain and stiffness, which is really bad in the morning but improves with activity.
  • The feeling of fatigued and weak muscles throughout the day.

Now, here is one important thing, not everyone will experience all these symptoms. The person might experience one or two symptoms at a time, or there might be a completely different symptom that is not listed here. For instance, the person may also experience that their skin is starting to look shiner because of the tightness. A few people might see that they have small red spots on their hands and faces. Unlike regular symptoms they might have calcium deposits under the skin, near the fingertips, which could be painful.

Above we mentioned early signs, but there are few symptoms that are likely to occur when someone moves to an advanced stage of scleroderma. They may include:

  • Digestive issues can lead to a range of problems such as heartburn, swallowing difficulties, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. These signs may indicate that scleroderma is impacting an individual’s system. If the esophagus is affected they could experience challenges in swallowing food. On the other hand, if the colon is affected, constipation might be a result. In essence the symptoms can differ based on the part of the system that is affected.
  • Heart problems might cause chest pain when you take deep breaths and can cause shortness of breath. There is an increased risk of heart failure if scleroderma affects heart muscles. An early sign of scleroderma reaching the heart is an irregular heartbeat.
  • Lung problems are also very common and usually accompany heart problems. Together with heart conditions, it is shown to decrease the ability to sustain exercise. They can also contribute to increased blood pressure between the heart and lung.

The condition can represent itself in combination of any of these symptoms. But it is your watchful, observant nature that will help you get an early diagnosis of the condition and get it treated.

Causes of Scleroderma

Scientists and doctors still have much to learn about the factors that cause the condition. However, they have determined that excess production and accumulation of collagen in the skin tissue is what causes scleroderma. An interesting thing to note is that it also affects other organs and not only the skin tissue. Our body’s inner cavity which makes up the digestive system and circulatory system (lungs, blood vessels and heart) all can fall victim to the condition.

Doctors are yet to know why exactly this condition occurs. They have spent decades trying to find out that it is likely caused by a combination of three factors, namely genetics, immune system dysfunction, and environmental triggers. We will touch upon these three topics in the next section.

Risk Factors for Scleroderma

There is a need to understand that any person can get scleroderma. Although it is seen more frequently in women and is diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50. There are cases where children are also diagnosed with the condition. So, come, let’s discover what doctors have found.

  • Genetics: Individual familial and gene variations have an important role to play before the condition becomes apparent in anyone. For instance, women with preexposure to the condition are 14 times more likely to see symptoms of scleroderma than men. This is also apparent from the fact that 80% of reported cases are women. Another factor is race. Individuals who carry European lineage are more than likely to develop localized scleroderma. Whereas African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with systemic scleroderma. It is a complex condition whose underlying genetic mechanism has been difficult because it is a very rare condition.
  • Environmental Factors: Some cases have shown that exposure to certain chemicals, drugs or viruses has induced the condition. If there is repeated exposure to these irritants, the risk for scleroderma can be increased multifold. But, due to their rare nature, in most cases we have not identified what these environmental factors are or if the identified triggers will cause the appearance of a condition in another person. In other words, we know a lot of things can trigger the condition, but whether the condition is sure to cause these changes is still unclear.
  • Immune System Dysfunction: As mentioned earlier scleroderma is thought to be an autoimmune condition. This means that it occurs when the body’s immune system starts to target the tissues. This targeting can happen through autoantibodies, activation of cells or unusual production of cytokines. It’s worth noting that there are types of antibodies, immune cells and cytokines, at play in the system. Identifying the part of the system responsible for an increased response or condition can be challenging.

Stem Cell Therapy for Scleroderma

At present doctors are using stem cells to treat moderate-to-severe scleroderma cases. We can say that scleroderma is going to become a bully on a rampage and start to cause life-altering damage to people. The current process is like running a marathon. It starts with collecting stem cells. Interestingly, stem cells taken from the umbilical cord stem cells (usMSC) have shown better results for the condition. In the next step the immune system is wiped clean, but when you are using ucMSCs the need to completely wipe off the immune system is not needed. It allows your body to build and modulate a new immune system, ideally one that plays nice with your tissues.

In the above section, we discussed the potential benefits of how immunomodulation with stem cells can help balance your scleroderma conditions. But there is more:

  • Reduced Fibrosis: Some research indicates that stem cells could potentially decrease fibrosis, which’s the development of scar tissue commonly seen in scleroderma. This could happen by either slowing down the function of fibroblast cells for collagen production or, by encouraging the breakdown of collagen.
  • Tissue Regeneration: Moreover, there are studies proposing that stem cells might be able to transform into tissue, offering a possibility to mend the harm inflicted by scleroderma.

Tips to Manage the Symptoms of Scleroderma at Home

  • Managing Heartburn or Acid Reflux: You will have to stop indulging in large heavy meals. Opt for smaller, more frequent servings throughout the day. This helps prevent your stomach from feeling overwhelmed and reduces the pressure that can trigger heartburn. Be cautious of foods that can trigger heartburn. Avoid tomato-based products, greasy fried foods, coffee, garlic, onions, peppermint and fizzy drinks. While they may be tasty they have the potential to cause discomfort. It’s advisable to limit or completely avoid alcohol as it can irritate your system. Also, reduce your spicy foods. They may add flavor but they can also exacerbate heartburn symptoms. You will have to keep an eye on your spice consumption as well.
  • Addressing Constipation: Incorporate fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables into your diet to promote healthy digestion and add bulk to your stool. Consider including a supplement or adding yogurt with live and active cultures to support gut health and motility. Stay hydrated by drinking an amount of water throughout the day to maintain smooth digestion.
  • Reducing Inflammation: You have to increase the variety of fruits and vegetables on your plate. Think of blueberries, strawberries, and apples. They are full of antioxidants that help combat inflammation. If you indulge in meat, then fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are packed with omega-3 acids known for their inflammatory properties. It’s beneficial to include them in your diet twice a week. Other good additions to the diet include nuts, seeds and olive oil. They are a great source of vitamin E, which offers anti-inflammatory benefits. To enhance absorption consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement with your meal. A lack of vitamin D has been associated with inflammation. Or you can bask in the rays of the rising sun to trigger vitamin D synthesis.
  • Enhance blood circulation: When you start to engage in activity your body will be able to ensure a smooth flow of blood across the body. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise like walking, biking, swimming or yoga. Prioritize getting 7 through 8 hours of quality sleep each night, as feeling well rested plays a role in managing fatigue and maintaining constant blood pressure.


There is a wealth of information available to us about how to manage scleroderma. Even though the early signs of scleroderma are subtle, observing and noticing them early can allow us to manage the condition. If you suspect you may be exhibiting scleroderma symptoms, it’s advisable to have a conversation with your healthcare provider without delay. They can assist you through the process by creating a personalized treatment strategy that works best with you. 

However, if you have already been diagnosed with the condition and want to better understand it, call us at +91-965-4321-400.