The treatment options for scleroderma are dependent upon the individual and the type and stage of the disorder. The extent that an individual suffers from scleroderma is determined by his/her autoimmune response (abnormal immune system response of not recognizing parts of itself). The autoimmune response can affect skin, blood vessels, connective tissues and internal organs.
How is scleroderma treated?
Treatment options for scleroderma include:
Immunosuppressive drugs – One of the most common approaches to treating scleroderma is to administer immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine, methotrexate and others. The rationale for using immunosuppressing drugs is to stop the body’s immune system from attacking the body.
NSAIDs – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat the inflammation of scleroderma. The inflammation associated with scleroderma can cause affect the joints, the lining of the heart, the lining of the lungs, and the muscles. Ibuprofen and other NSAID medications can help to reduce the inflammatory process associated with scleroderma.
Low dose aspirin may be given to prevent blood clots. Some people with scleroderma suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon which can cause blood clots in the fingers. Ulcerations may occur in people who suffer from Raynaud’s. The therapeutic effect of low dose aspirin is to thin the blood to prevent blood clotting.
Corticosteroids – Steroids may be used when NSAID medications aren’t effective in reducing inflammation in the joints and other parts of the body. Prednisone may be given over a period of time and then the dosage may be tapered down over an extended period of time until the steroid is discontinued. When on steroids, the patient needs to be followed closely by the doctor, because there are very serious side effects that can occur with prolonged use of prednisone or other steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Antibiotics – Certain antibiotics may be given to fight infection when the skin breaks down. A specific antibiotic, D-Penicillamine, is used in some autoimmune diseases. It is believed that D-Penicillamine slows down the progression of scleroderma.
Tetracycline and erythromycin may be prescribed for people who suffer from cramping and bowel problems associated with scleroderma.
Anti-fibrotic medications – Anti-fibrotic medications may be given to slow down the production of collagen. Collagen is produced in excess in people who have scleroderma.
Blood pressure medications – Calcium-channel blockers are prescribed to treat high blood pressure that occurs with scleroderma. Drugs such as Procardia and Cardizem help to prevent pulmonary artery hypertension.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SSRI’s (antidepressants) such as Prozac can help improve circulation to the fingers in people who are suffering from Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Proton pump inhibitors – PPIs such as Nexium and Prilosec may be prescribed to treat the esophageal irritation (heart burn) associated with scleroderma.
There is no cure for scleroderma. Much can be done to treat the symptoms of scleroderma. If you suffer from scleroderma, your doctor may suggest that you avoid food and drinks which contain caffeine. Your doctor may also suggest for smokers to stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes tends to exacerbate the symptoms of scleroderma because smoking cigarettes constricts the capillaries in the body.