What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a chronic disease characterized by excessive deposits of collagen. In order to better understand Scleroderma it helps if you have some understanding as to what collagen is.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a fibrous protein that occurs bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It is a major structural protein that forms molecular cables to strengthen the tendons and vast, resilient sheets that support the skin and internal organs. There is no organ or tissue which does not have collagen. Collagen acts as the important support structure in tissues around which cells live and function. Elements of our body such as bones and teeth are made by adding mineral crystals to collagen.
Scleroderma directly affects the skin, and in sometimes in more severe cases, it can affect the blood vessels and internal organs of the body. The most visible scleroderma symptom is the hardening of skin and associated scarring that goes along with it. This hardened skin will normally appear reddish or scaly in appearance. Often times this will allow blood vessels to be more visible.
The most serious aspect of the disease to take into account are: The total area that is covered, and the the level of internal involvement that is taking place. These are important to consider because a patient that only has minor coverage is much less likely to have damage to internal organs and tissues as someone with larger coverage.
Almost certainly, in cases where an entire limb is affected, future use of that limb will be jeopardized. If the coverage is over the torso, the heart and lungs will be affected which is more severe, than lets say an arm. Often times, internal scarring will occur which is more complicated and cannot simply be seen by the naked eye.