Your Treatment Options for Scleroderma

Scleroderma is such a rare disease that there’s only one way to be sure you get the very best treatment. You need a rheumatology expert who is familiar with all the medications and who stays up to date with developing treatment options.

That’s exactly what you get from Behnam Khaleghi, MD, at Pacific Rheumatology. As an expert in scleroderma, he carefully identifies the extent of your disease and develops a customized treatment plan that relieves your symptoms and helps you stay active and healthy.

Scleroderma summary

The treatment options for scleroderma make more sense when you know about the condition, so here’s a quick rundown of the basics.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects your connective tissues. This disease causes an overproduction of collagen, which then thickens and hardens the affected tissues.

The disease takes two major forms:

Localized scleroderma

This form only occurs in your skin, causing hard, tight patches (plaques) of skin. The patches may look like ovals or straight lines, and they can stay in a small area or cover a large area of your trunk and limbs.

In addition to plaques on your skin, you may notice swelling, hardened nodules under your skin, and enlarged red blood vessels, especially on your hands and face.

Systemic scleroderma

Systemic scleroderma affects your skin, as well as other parts of your body. This type may involve your joints, muscles, heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. As scleroderma leads to scarring in your organs, it affects their ability to function.

One of the earliest signs of systemic scleroderma, called Raynaud’s phenomenon, makes your fingers or toes turn white or blue when they’re exposed to cold temperatures.

The other symptoms you develop depend on the organ that’s affected. A few of the most common include difficulty swallowing, joint pain, leg edema, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Medications for scleroderma

Medications are the mainstay of treatment for scleroderma. We don’t currently have any treatments that can prevent or cure scleroderma, but we can prescribe many medications that effectively relieve your symptoms. 

A few examples include:

Topical medications

Topical creams and ointments can soften the patches of hardened skin. These treatments contain medications that reduce inflammation and slow down cell growth.

Anti-inflammatory and pain-relief medications

Typical anti-inflammatory medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, and corticosteroids. These medications can help relieve pain and swelling throughout your body, but they’re often used when scleroderma affects your muscles and joints.

Immunosuppressants

Immunosuppressants slow down the autoimmune reaction, which helps to reduce your symptoms. We specialize in biologic medications that suppress your immune system, such as rituximab.

Antifibrotic agents

These medications slow down the progression of scleroderma and may partially reverse organ damage, but they can’t cure the disease.

Antacids and proton pump inhibitors

When scleroderma affects the gastrointestinal tract, many patients develop acid reflux. Reflux is treated with medications that neutralize stomach acid and reduce acid production.

Antihypertensive medications

Medications that lower your blood pressure, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and calcium channel blockers, are often prescribed when scleroderma involves your kidneys.

Statins

Statins are best known for lowering your cholesterol, but they also help protect blood vessels affected by scleroderma.

Medications for pulmonary hypertension

People with scleroderma have an 8-30% higher risk of developing pulmonary hypertension compared to those who don’t have the disease. We use several classes of medications to lower pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in your lungs.

Other scleroderma treatment options

Beyond medications, we may recommend two other treatments for scleroderma, phototherapy and physical therapy:

Phototherapy

The skin patches caused by scleroderma may improve when they’re exposed to a specific type of ultraviolet light called UVA1. This narrow band of light breaks down collagen fibers, effectively reducing the amount of collagen in the plaque.

Physical therapy

A structured physical therapy program can ease your pain, boost circulation, maintain muscle strength, and make it easier to move by stretching the skin, muscles, and joints affected by scleroderma.

If you have questions about scleroderma or need compassionate care for your symptoms, call Pacific Rheumatology or book an appointment online.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Is Your Diet to Blame for Inflammation?

Following a healthy diet has a new meaning when you know that the foods you eat can either increase or decrease inflammation. Here's what you should know about the effect of foods and how you can use them to get relief from inflammatory conditions.

Conditions That Can Be Helped with PRP

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is one of today's starring regenerative treatments, using your own healing cells as medicine to treat many health problems. Learn about the painful and inflammatory conditions that may improve with PRP.

How Inflammation Impacts Your Health

Chronic inflammation has a powerful impact on your health and longevity. More than half of all deaths are attributed to inflammation-related diseases. But you can fight the effect of chronic inflammation with a holistic approach to your health care.

What Makes PRP Therapy So Effective?

If you live with a chronic rheumatic disease or an ongoing problem like tendonitis, you owe it to yourself to learn about PRP therapy. PRP heals and eases pain using your body's own regenerative cells. Learn what makes PRP so effective.

Should I Be Taking Anti-inflammatory Supplements?

Anti-inflammatory supplements are one of the most powerful tools you have for reducing bodywide inflammation. Keeping inflammation under control goes a long way toward easing pain and preventing chronic health conditions.