June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month, meant to raise understanding of the chronic autoimmune disease. Scleroderma attacks a patient’s connective tissue with one’s own immune system. First diagnosed in 1754, scleroderma affects women, men, and children. An estimated 300,000 people in the United States have scleroderma. For many, it can be a life-threatening disease. There is no known cause or cure.
Symptoms of scleroderma include the tightening, swelling, stiffness, or pain in fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face; puffy or discolored skin; and fatigue or feeling tired. Fingers and toes may react strongly to cold, appearing white and hurt, as well as red spots or ulcers on affected joints and areas. Scleroderma can also affect internal organs—occurring in roughly a one-third of cases—causing shortness of breath or problems digesting food, including heartburn, trouble swallowing, or food moving slower than usual through your system. The symptoms vary greatly for each person, and can all range from mild to severe. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, be sure to consult a doctor.
Though life-threatening, the five-year