|What are the Early Symptoms of Scleroderma?|
|Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:19|
Scleroderma is a term used to describe a group of rare, chronic diseases characterized by unusual tightening and hardening of the connective tissues and skin. There are two major types of scleroderma: localized, which only affects the skin; and systemic, which affects the internal organs in addition to the skin.
Health officials at MayoClinic.com report that Native American or African-American females are most likely to be affected by this condition. The early symptoms of scleroderma can vary between patients and should be discussed with a doctor if they occur.
Skin Swelling, Thickening or Tightening
Patients with scleroderma can develop abnormal skin changes as a symptom of this condition. The fingers or hands can appear unusually puffy or enlarged and may develop thick patches of skin. Skin across the face or hands can become abnormally tight, which may lead to difficult or restricted movement of the affected body regions, explain health officials at MayoClinic.com. Patients may notice that the affected skin appears shiny or is hard or firm to the touch. These scleroderma symptoms may be mild initially but can become progressively worse over time.
Unusual, sudden skin discoloration in response to cold temperatures can occur as a symptom of scleroderma. This symptom, which is referred to as Raynaud's phenomenon, is characterized by an abnormal white, blue or red discoloration of the skin along the fingers and toes caused by restricted blood flow to these body regions. Patients who experience Raynaud's phenomenon often develop sensations of numbness or pain within the hands and feet. These symptoms are typically temporary but can reoccur sporadically throughout the day, explains the Merck Manual, an online medical encyclopedia for health professionals. Severe emotional trauma or upset may also instigate Raynaud's phenomenon symptoms in certain patients.
Joint or Muscle Pain
Scleroderma can cause inflammation of the joints or muscles of patients during the early stages of this disease. As a result, affected patients can experience sensations of pain or aching throughout the body. These painful symptoms may occur in conjunction with muscle weakness, which can lead to difficulty standing or walking.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Patients with scleroderma can develop early symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD symptoms can include heartburn, nausea, difficulty swallowing, chest discomfort or sore throat. Certain patients can experience a decrease in appetite that may be accompanied by bowel movement changes. Over time, these early symptoms of scleroderma can become worse and may lead to poor nutrient absorption and difficulty controlling stool production, a condition called fecal incontinence.