Scleroderma: or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases.
There are an estimated 300,000 people in the United States who have scleroderma, about one third of whom have the systemic form of scleroderma. Since scleroderma presents with symptoms similar to other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis is difficult and there may be many misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cases as well.
Localized scleroderma is more common in children, whereas systemic scleroderma is more common in adults. Overall female patients outnumber male patients about four to one, and the average age at diagnosis is in the forties.
At the present time, there is no cure for scleroderma, but there are many treatments available. Some are directed at particular symptoms like heartburn, which can be controlled by medications called proton pump inhibitors or medicine to improve the motion of the bowel. Some treatments are directed at decreasing the activity of the immune system. Some people with mild disease may not need medication at all and occasionally people can go off treatment when their scleroderma is no longer active. Because there is so much variation from one person to another there is great variation in the treatments prescribed
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