In this case not only does the body’s immune system think there’s something foreign and dangerous attacking it, but it reacts to this attack by targeting the skin, connective tissues, and other internal organs. This can lead to all sorts of system-wide problems, including tightening and hardening of the skin, greater sensitivity, circulation and digestive problems, intense pain, flexibility issues and weight loss.
While some people with scleroderma may experience localized spots on their skin, such as their fingertips or toes, others may have it running rampant through their bodies causing all sorts of physical problems. Advanced cases can include permanent changes to the affected areas and problems swallowing.
The name itself literally means “hard skin,’ from the Latin sclero, meaning hard, and derma meaning skin.
As with most autoimmune diseases, research is continuing and no effective long-term solution has been developed for all patients, although studies have identified a variety of possible causes.
Some medications can cause relief to some sufferers and improve symptoms, while other types of medication may aggravate symptoms. Patients can try to minimize pain and progression of symptoms, which can include home remedies or changes to their environment and lifestyles.
Patients in the Santa Ana area battling scleroderma have a variety of options. Some people with mild cases may simply need to check with their health care providers every now and then to see if the disease is advancing or how effective medications are. These people try to maintain the same level of activities as they had prior, but perhaps may take some extra precautions like making sure to wear gloves or socks.
Others who may have more chronic, advanced and systemic forms of scleroderma may need more individualized care more often provided by a home health care professional.
He or she can help with a variety of patient needs, since scleroderma symptoms can range widely.
Treatment can include:
As skin thickens and hardens, ointments can minimize this. In addition, regular lubrication can reduce the risk of sores, infections or skin ulcers. Patients may use over-the-counter lotions or receive a prescription for more intensive ointments. Even basic balms can help prevent cracking and dryness.
In cases of sores or ulcerated skin, home health care professionals may be asked to change bandages, clean these areas and make sure no infections are forming.
Applying heat can soothe skin and joints that are aggravated, plus generally reduce pain.
Other medications and procedures.
Home health care professionals can work with a patient’s provider or medical team to make sure he or she has other medicine, including antibiotics or antacids. Regular blood tests can also identify whether the number of antibodies is increasing or decreasing.
In addition to a nurse, a home health care visit in the Santa Ana area could include a physical therapist or a rehabilitative therapist who can work with them on tasks like using their hands or feet that may have hardened or tightened due to low blood flow to extremities. Exercise can reduce pain, improve flexibility and build strength, along with giving extra attention to limbs or extremities that could be at risk. A nutrition specialist may be able to help with meal planning or food advice, since a regular healthy diet can sometimes boost the immune system. Plus, someone with a tender stomach, digestive problems or heartburn from their scleroderma symptoms may benefit from a more modified menu.
While scleroderma isn’t always a progressive disease for every patient, some with more advanced cases can benefit from regular visits to their provider, along with regular visits from a home health care provider. The number of these can vary depending on the condition.
A regular visit from a home health care professional can also provide something that’s also helpful to people battling scleroderma: emotional support. Though patients are encouraged to go about their daily lives, some of the symptoms don’t always make this easy.
For instance, the extra sensitivity to heat or cold requires them to bundle up when they go outside, even if the people around them may be warm. Advanced skin problems may cause pigment change or sores on the body, making it less desirable to go outside around others.
While people battling scleroderma are encouraged to find support groups in their community, or continue to connect with friends and family, someone in a lot of pain might not want to do any of this. So a regularly scheduled visit from a caregiver could be beneficial in a lot of ways, beyond the medical procedures.
The regular check-in could also see if symptoms have changed from the previous visit or visits.
Like other auto-immune diseases, scleroderma can be challenging because the patient’s condition is always changing. In the Santa Ana area, there are a variety of resources available for different levels of care. Contact us today and we’ll help you sort it out.