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Scleroderma Specialist

Arthritis Associates -  - Rheumatology

Arthritis Associates

Rheumatology & Arthritis located in San Antonio, TX

If you’re among the 100,000-300,000 Americans with scleroderma, you need specialized care to address the severe inflammation that the disease causes. The experienced rheumatology team at Arthritis Associates has more than 40 years of experience in treating scleroderma and other inflammatory conditions, and they’re ready to help in their state-of-the-art San Antonio, Texas, office. Schedule your appointment through the online scheduler or call the office.

Scleroderma Q&A

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that causes skin and connective tissue hardening. There are two main types of scleroderma:

Localized scleroderma

Localized scleroderma causes skin symptoms and could move into the muscles, bones, and joints. But, localized scleroderma doesn't appear in your internal organs.

Systemic scleroderma

Systemic scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is the more severe type. It can affect any of the same areas as localized scleroderma, as well as internal organs like the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Up to 80% of people with systemic sclerosis have interstitial lung disease. 

Although the cause of scleroderma isn't certain at this time, genetics likely play a big role. 

What are the symptoms of scleroderma?

Scleroderma can vary considerably from one person to another, with some people having fairly mild symptoms and others having disabling and, possibly, life-threatening problems. 

More than 90% of people with scleroderma experience Raynaud's phenomenon. With Raynaud's phenomenon, your fingers and possibly toes change colors. That usually occurs after cold exposure. You may also develop swelling, ulcers, and gangrene (tissue death) in your fingers or toes. 

With scleroderma, skin often thickens, swells, and hardens. It may look shiny, dark, or pale. Other symptoms can vary with the body part it affects but may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Digestive tract issues (e.g., difficulty swallowing, bloating, constipation, poor food absorption)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Heartburn
  • Dilated blood vessels in the face, hands, and near fingernails
  • Bumpy calcium deposits on fingers or other bony areas
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint grating or clicking

These are just some of the many issues that you may experience with scleroderma. If you suspect that you could have scleroderma, it's important to speak with the experienced Arthritis Associates team promptly. 

How is scleroderma diagnosed?

There's currently no definitive test to diagnose scleroderma. The Arthritis Associates team reviews your symptoms and medical history carefully. They also check for telltale signs of scleroderma, such as Raynaud's phenomenon and skin changes. 

Because scleroderma can cause many hidden changes, they perform blood, urine, or other tests like electrocardiogram (EKG) or bone density X-rays in their on-site, state-of-the-art lab before making your diagnosis.

How is scleroderma treated?

At Arthritis Associates, the treatment goal is to curb your symptoms while stopping disease progression. Unfortunately, the medications that work well for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders aren't typically effective for scleroderma. 

But, there are many different ways to combat individual symptoms, such as:

  • Calcium channel blockers or PDE-5 inhibitors for Raynaud's phenomenon
  • Antacids for heartburn
  • Intra-articular steroid injections for joint pain
  • ACE inhibitors for kidney disease
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) or immunosuppressive drugs for muscle pain and weakness 

Some medications are oral or injections, and others are intravenous infusions, which you can have in the on-site infusion suite at Arthritis Associates. 

For the very best in personalized scleroderma treatments, call Arthritis Associates or click the online scheduler.