Scleroderma is a chronic skin disease that can lead to hard, tightened skin. For those with scleroderma, the immune system begins to damage normal, healthy body tissue. As a result, scar tissue may form in the lungs, skin, and other organs.
Nearly 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with scleroderma. There is no cure for this condition, but treatment options are available.
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Types of Scleroderma
There are two types of scleroderma, localized and systemic.
- Localized scleroderma impacts the skin and rarely spreads to other areas of the body, preventing other organs from being infected.
- Systemic scleroderma is more serious and can harm the connective tissue in many parts of the body, including the:
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Symptoms of scleroderma can vary from person to person and depend on the part of the body that is infected. The most common symptoms include:
While some symptoms of scleroderma can be relatively mild, more serious complications may develop. Scleroderma can cause organ damage and can lead to the need for an organ transplant.
Complications of Scleroderma
The two most dangerous conditions that result from scleroderma are pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Both disorders affect the lungs and can be life-threatening.
- Pulmonary Fibrosis is a disease that causes scarring or stiffening of the lungs and makes everyday activities difficult. Symptoms include shortness of breath, weight loss, and fatigue.
- Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a condition that causes high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. This can lead to difficulty breathing and can also cause the right side of the heart to fail.
Lung Transplant for Scleroderma
Once patients with scleroderma develop these conditions, a lung transplant can be a life-saving solution.
During a lung transplant, the damaged lung is removed and replaced with a healthy donor lung. While a lung transplant does not cure scleroderma, as patients may still suffer from a variety of symptoms, their lung function is restored.
Although lung transplantation for patients with scleroderma is rare, it can be life-changing and can help treat the most serious complications that develop as a result of the disease.
It is important for scleroderma patients to remain hopeful during treatment. Stay positive and work with your doctor to investigate whether a lung transplant is the best treatment option for you.
Based in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and more than 700 doctor’s offices and outpatient centers. Our expert physicians are among the leaders in their fields, and we are leaders in groundbreaking research and treatment breakthroughs. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ranks as “One of America’s Best Hospitals” and No. 1 in Pennsylvania in U.S. News & World Report’s listings.