Scleroderma Awareness Month takes place every June and is run by charity Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK. The campaigns brings organisations from around the world together to increase awareness of this rare autoimmune condition, and NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are backing the campaign this year.
Scleroderma (pronounced Skleer-oh-dur-mah) is a rare, chronic disease of the immune system, blood vessels and connective tissue. Worldwide, 2.5 million people have scleroderma, and in the UK there are 12,000 people diagnosed.
Ninety per cent of scleroderma patients will also suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes the blood vessels in the hands and feet to contract in cold conditions, leading to pain and discoloration.
In the early stages of the disease, only the skin may be affected. You may notice your skin thickening and shiny areas developing around your mouth, nose, fingers, and other bony areas. As the condition progresses, you may start to have limited movement of the affected areas.
Additional symptoms may include:
- hair loss
- calcium deposits, or white lumps under the skin
- small, dilated blood vessels under the skin’s surface
- joint pain
- shortness of breath
- a dry cough
- difficulty swallowing
- oesophageal reflux
- abdominal bloating after meals.
Dr Preeti Shukla, Clinical Lead at NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG said:
“Although the condition is complex, receiving a scleroderma diagnosis doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Whilst it’s not currently curable, it is treatable.
“Your GP is your first point of call when symptoms arise, or if you need information about medications. Although responsible for the general health of their patients, GPs do not usually offer specialist advice or treatment and would refer you to a specialist.”
To find out more on scleroderma, visit the NHS Choices website: www.nhs.uk/conditions/scleroderma
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