Healthy Living: Treating scleroderma
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease. It can affect the skin, joints, and even your internal organs. As Marcie Fraser reports, a lack of an early diagnosis could be deadly.
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The disease takes on many forms and progresses at different speeds. Some people who have scleroderma suffer blotchy patches on their skin and cause deformities like Nancy Sokil's hands.
"My knees and some of my other joints began to feel achy," said Nancy Sokil, a scleroderma patient.
The disease caused Suzy Ballantyne’s intestinal track to bleed.
'It's mostly internal digestive issues that I have," Ballantyne explained.
The more severe symptoms involve the heart, called pulmonary arterial hypertension.
"The pressure build up leading to heart dysfunction or failure would cause fatigability and shortness of breath because of the inability to pump as much body as it needs to the lungs to pick up oxygen," said cardiologist Dr. Michael Marmulstein.
There is no cure, but treatment helps the symptoms. If the heart is affected, there are eight FDA approved drugs for treatment. And for the lungs…
"There are pretty powerful drugs. Cytoxin…also used for chemotherapy and for a variety of cancers and the other called CellCept, which is commonly used to prevent rejection of kidney transplant and both of those medications are used early have a very high success rate of at least arresting the disease if not improving the lung function," said rheumatologist Dr. Lee Shapiro.
In addition to medication, keeping your heart and lungs in good shape is critical.
"I think that maintaining normal body weight, maintaining muscular skeletal fitness through appropriate exercise through a physical guided program is very helpful good for all people with all diseases, including scleroderma," said Dr. Marmulstein.