Is there a test for scleroderma?

There is no single test for scleroderma; your doctor may:

  • Ask about your medical history.
  • Ask about your current and past symptoms.
  • Perform a physical exam.
  • Order lab tests.

How is scleroderma treated?

Your treatment depends on the type of scleroderma you have, your symptoms, and which tissues and organs are affected. Treatment can help control the symptoms and limit damage.

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Medications to help decrease swelling, manage pain, control other symptoms, and prevent complications that may arise.
  • Physical or occupational therapy to help with pain, improve muscle strength, and teach ways to help with daily living, such as brushing your teeth.
  • Regular dental care because scleroderma can make your mouth dry and damage connective tissues in your mouth, speeding up tooth decay and causing your teeth to become loose.  

Who treats scleroderma?

Most people will see a rheumatologist for scleroderma treatment. A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and other inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. Dermatologists, who specialize in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails, may also play an important role in treating the disease.

Because scleroderma can affect many different organs and organ systems, you may have several different doctors providing your care, including:

  • Cardiologists, who specialize in treating diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
  • Dental providers, who can treat complications from the thickening of tissues of the mouth and face.
  • Gastroenterologists, who treat digestive problems.
  • Mental health professionals, who provide counseling and treat mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Nephrologists, who treat kidney disease.
  • Occupational therapists, who teach how to safely perform activities of daily living.
  • Orthopaedists, who treat and perform surgery for bone and joint diseases or injuries.
  • Primary care providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.
  • Physical therapists, who teach ways to build muscle strength.
  • Pulmonologists, who treat lung disease and problems.
  • Speech-language pathologists, who specialize in the treatment of speech, communication, and swallowing disorders.

Living with scleroderma

Living with the disease may be hard. To help, try to take an active part in treating your scleroderma. The following tips and suggestions may help.

  • Keep warm. Dress in layers, wear gloves and socks, and avoid cold rooms and weather when possible.
  • Try to avoid cold or wet environments that may trigger symptoms.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Put on sunscreen before you go outdoors.
  • Use moisturizers on your skin to help lessen stiffness.
  • Use humidifiers to moisten the air in your home in colder winter climates.
  • Avoid hot baths and showers, as hot water dries the skin.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and household cleaners. Wear rubber gloves if you use such products.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Visit the dentist regularly for check-ups.
  • Reach out to online and community support groups.
  • Talk to your family and friends to help them understand the disease.
  • Talk to a mental health professional for help with coping with a chronic illness.
  • Talk with your doctor about any symptoms you may have, and follow your doctor’s directions.   

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