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Anyone who has lived with a chronic illness is aware that, most often, chronic illnesses present with comorbidities. A condition is considered chronic when it lasts more than one year and requires ongoing medical attention to treat the symptoms. Autoimmune disorders often present with many comorbidities.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder, and Raynaud’s is a comorbidity in over 95% of patients with scleroderma.
Read on to learn more.
When reading the word scleroderma, you can see that there are two-word parts. Scleroderma means the hardening of the skin. However, the condition is not limited to the skin, and the disease is a connective tissue disease. Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune rheumatic disease.
When your immune system goes haywire and you have scleroderma, your body is tricking the tissue into believing it is injured. As a result, the body then makes too much collagen, leading to the hardening of the skin and tissue. Too much collagen in your skin will cause patches of tight hard skin, and though scleroderma involves many body systems, hard skin is typically a telltale sign.
Raynaud’s is a condition that is extremely common, affecting 20% of the adult population worldwide. Anyone can develop Raynaud’s. This condition results from drastically reduced blood supply to the fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Raynaud’s attacks often stem from a sudden change in temperature, most often cold temperatures. However, for some people, hot weather and temperatures can cause attacks.
During an attack, the body part will become white, and then as the tissues desperately use up the oxygen stored, the body part will turn blue. Once the arteries relax, the appendages will become bright red as fresh blood returns. During the white or blue phase of an attack, the appendages affected are extremely painful or numb.
When figuring out who gets scleroderma or Raynaud’s, remember there is no evidence supporting hereditary inheritance. However, a genetic predisposition is possible. Certain gene variations are going to leave someone more likely to develop scleroderma.
Scleroderma also can have environmental triggers, such as exposure to certain viruses, medication, or drugs. For example, if someone is repeatedly exposed to harmful substances or chemicals while working, they have an increased risk of developing scleroderma. Scleroderma, identified as an autoimmune disease, occurs in a part of the body because the immune system attacks the connective tissues. Often people with scleroderma will also have other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Scleroderma has presented at a higher rate in people of non-European backgrounds. Localized scleroderma is more common in children. However, systematic scleroderma is more common in adults. The disease is also more common in females, with a 4 to 1 ratio. And when it comes to age, scleroderma is most often seen between the ages of 25 and 55.
Raynaud’s usually occurs in people under 30, starting in their teenage years. More often than not, people with this disease have a family history of the disease, suggesting a genetic link. However, this has not been confirmed.
Scleroderma results from an overproduction and collection of collagen in the body. Collagen is a fibrous protein that helps to create your body’s connective tissues, including your skin. Raynaud’s is a constriction of blood vessels to the extremities because of extreme temperature change or exposure.