Currently, there is no cure for the overproduction of collagen that causes scleroderma. Thus, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and reducing the risk of serious complications.
More invasive treatments, like surgeries, are rarely used for scleroderma. Typically the disease can be managed through a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle modifications.
- Antibiotic creams or pills to combat skin infections. Some antibiotics can also help food move more quickly through your digestive system, which may help alleviate the digestive symptoms of systemic scleroderma.
- Immunosuppressants: These medications work by reducing your immune system’s activity. Because scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder, these drugs may help alleviate symptoms.
- Medications to ease digestive problems: Depending on what part of the digestive tract is impacted, you may need different types of medications.
- Antacids to reduce heartburn.
- Proton pump inhibitors and H-2 receptor blockers: these medications reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces, thereby reducing heartburn.
- Medications for constipation.
- Antidiarrheal medications.
- Nitroglycerin cream to relieve skin tightness.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin: These drugs work by fighting inflammation directly. This will help alleviate the pain associated with swelling, joint aches, or Raynaud’s syndrome.
- Steroid creams or pills prescribed to help reduce swelling or skin tightness.
- Vasodilators: These medications work to widen and relax the blood vessels, improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Blood pressure medications are vasodilators taken daily to maintain healthy blood pressure. During a scleroderma renal crisis, a strong, fast-acting vasodilator may be used to reduce blood pressure in the kidneys.
Physical or occupational therapy can help scleroderma patients manage pain and remain autonomous in day-to-day life. During therapy, a trained specialist will guide you through exercises that help you gain strength and mobility, learn new ways to move, and become more confident in your body. They can be an important part of your scleroderma care plan.
Physical therapy. This therapy focuses on mobility, strength, pain management, and teaching family members or caregivers how to better support you.
Occupational therapy. This therapy helps you with self-care tasks and home chores, cognitive and visual rehabilitation, physical performance, and fatigue management.
The outlook for scleroderma patients
While scleroderma can have some serious complications, it is generally not a life-threatening disease. Many scleroderma patients live happy, full lives. UCHealth can help you find a treatment and management plan that works for you so that you can get back out into the world.