What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a group of autoimmune diseases that cause the skin and connective tissues (tissues that support the skin and internal organs) to get thick and hard. A healthy immune system protects your child from infection by attacking invaders such as viruses or other pathogens. In children with scleroderma, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissue, leading to the disease. Scleroderma is rare in children.
At Children’s Health℠, we work closely with both you and your primary care provider so that everyone involved has the information they need to create the best outcomes for your child.
What are the different types of Scleroderma?
There are two types of scleroderma in children:
The localized form of scleroderma only affects certain parts of the body (usually the skin) but does not affect major organs. This is also called morphea.
Systemic scleroderma can affect the entire body (skin, tissues, blood vessels and major organs).
What are the signs and symptoms of Scleroderma?
- Hardening or thickening of the skin
- Extreme sensitivity to cold that causes discoloration, numbness or pain in the fingers and toes (known as Raynaud's phenomenon)
- Enlarged blood vessels on the hands and face and around the nail beds
- Small white lumps under the skin
- Joint pain
- Weight loss
How is Scleroderma diagnosed?
There are several tests to diagnose scleroderma in children. A doctor will go over your child's medical history and perform a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may also perform one or more of the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan, a noninvasive test that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body
- Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs)
- Echocardiogram, a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart
- Skin biopsy, which involves the removal of a small amount of tissue from the skin using a small blade or skin punch tool. The tissue is later examined under a microscope
Not every child needs all these tests. Your physician will tell you exactly what the next steps are. Each year, the specialists at Children’s Health see more than 1,000 pediatric patients for scleroderma and other rheumatic disorders. We have the skills and resources necessary to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for your child too.
What are the causes of Scleroderma?
The exact cause of scleroderma is unknown.
How is Scleroderma treated?
The severity and type of your child’s scleroderma will determine the treatment. Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Medications to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, suppress the immune system, dilate blood vessels, relieve heartburn and decrease blood pressure
- Physical therapy to maintain flexibility and range of motion
- Lifestyle changes that include exercise, keeping the hands and feet warm, not smoking, wearing sunscreen, avoiding hot baths and showers and avoiding strong soaps or chemicals
Children’s Health is part of the largest and longest established multi-specialty clinic for children with rheumatic diseases in the region. In our rheumatology clinic, dedicated health care professionals help patients and their families manage diseases like scleroderma.
Children’s Health uses a multidisciplinary approach to caring for your child. This allows us to offer our patients care from multiple specialists and experts, in a single appointment, at one location. If your child has symptoms of scleroderma, contact us. We provide the comprehensive and individualized care necessary to put your child back on the path to a healthy life.