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Q&A : SCLERODERMA CAN BE PAINFUL - AND DEADLY.

What is scleroderma?

It's a chronic, degenerative disease that leads to the overproduction of collagen.

How serious is the disease?

When scleroderma affects the skin, which occurs in about half of the cases, it makes the skin look puffy and taught, which can be painful and debilitating, but not life-threatening. But when the disease targets internal organs - including the heart, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract - the excess collagen makes it difficult for the organs to function. This is when scleroderma becomes more serious - and even deadly.

What are some of the symptoms?

About 90 percent of those with scleroderma experience the Raynaud phenomena. It's when blood gets cut off from the hands, feet and other extremities, causing them to blanch white and blue. Blood eventually returns to the extremities. But not everyone with Raynaud develops scleroderma. Other symptoms include tightening of the skin; numbness or sensitivity to cold and tingling in hands, feet and other extremities; pain in the joints; and overall lethargy.

Who is most susceptible to scleroderma?

At least 500,000 Americans are believed to have scleroderma (more than multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy) and about 80 percent of them are women, usually between ages 30 and 50.

How is scleroderma contracted?

It's not contagious or directly hereditary, for example, from mother to child. Ongoing research shows silicone (as used in breast implants), certain cooking oils used in Spain, overexposure to metals and/or a genetic predisposition may influence development of scleroderma.

How is scleroderma diagnosed?

A diagnostic test, using a small sample of tissue from the nailbed, was developed only in the last decade.

Is there a cure or any treatment available?

Although research continues, there's no cure now. Limited therapeutics are available and continue to be developed. If you suspect something is wrong, immediately visit a physician or rheumatologist.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 11, 1996
Words:303
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