About 300,000 people in the United States currently suffer from scleroderma. It is a condition that makes the connective tissues and skin become hard and inflexible. Scleroderma can affect just the skin or various other parts of the body, including the heart and lungs.
June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month. If your aging relative has scleroderma, understanding its causes and how it affects the body may enable you to be a better family caregiver.
Causes of Scleroderma
Scleroderma happens when the body makes too much collagen, which is a kind of protein that is found in connective tissues and the skin. Doctors aren’t certain what causes some people’s bodies to make too much collagen.
They believe there are three factors that play a role in a person’s risk of getting scleroderma:
Genetics: Doctors have identified a variation in genes that seems to increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Part of the reason for doctors believing genetics play a role is that some cases of scleroderma run in families. In addition, certain kinds of scleroderma happen more often in some nationalities.
Environment: There seems to be a connection between environmental triggers, like viruses and medications, and scleroderma. In addition, being exposed to chemicals used in some work environments may increase the risk.
Immune System: It’s possible that scleroderma is a kind of autoimmune disease because of the way the immune system affects the connective tissues. In as many as 20% of people with scleroderma, symptoms related to other kinds of autoimmune diseases are present.
How Scleroderma Affects the Body
How scleroderma affects the body depends on the part of the body that is affected and the kind of scleroderma they have. There are two main kinds:
Localized: This is a milder form of the disease because it doesn’t affect any internal organs. There are two kinds of localized scleroderma: morphea and linear. Morphea causes patches of skin that look lighter or darker than the rest of the skin. They are usually oval shaped and may be itchy, shiny, or have no hair. The border of the affected patch is purple in color. Linear causes strips of hardened skin on the arms or legs. Sometimes they occur on the face or head.
Systemic: Systemic scleroderma not only affects the skin but also internal organs. It may cause problems with digestion, breathing, or the heart.
Regardless of the kind of scleroderma, your aging relative has, elder care can help them live more comfortably. Elder care providers can assist them to tasks around the house that are difficult because of limited mobility caused by hardened connective tissues, such as house cleaning and cooking. Elder care providers can also remind the senior when they should take medications, helping them to better manage symptoms.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Elderly Care in Rockridge, CA, call the caring staff at Aviva In-Home Care. Call today: (415) 795-2203
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