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Scleroderma Specialist

Tara Rizvi, MD

Rheumatologists located in Katy, TX

The autoimmune disease scleroderma causes your skin and connective tissues to harden, sometimes resulting in life-altering complications. At Houston Rheumatology and Arthritis Specialists in Katy, Texas, board-certified rheumatologist Tara Rizvi, MD, provides treatment to manage the symptoms of scleroderma and minimize the potential for complications. If you have scleroderma, call the office or schedule an appointment online today to meet with Dr. Rizvi.

Scleroderma Q & A

What is scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a rare chronic disease that causes your skin and connective tissues to become hard and tight. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means it results from your immune system attacking your body.

When you have scleroderma, your immune system thinks there are injuries where there actually aren’t and produces an excess of collagen. Collagen is a necessary, abundant protein found in your skin and throughout your body. It forms connective tissue that gives your body its strength and structure.

Scleroderma ranges in severity. For some people, it’s a mild annoyance, but at its worst, the disease can have serious and even life-threatening complications. Scleroderma may only affect your skin, which is called localized scleroderma, but it can also affect your muscles, joints, blood vessels, lungs, kidneys, and heart, which is known as systemic scleroderma.

What are the symptoms of scleroderma?

Common symptoms of scleroderma include Raynaud’s phenomenon, hardened skin, and digestive problems:

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon, also called Raynaud’s disease or syndrome, is a reaction in your fingers (and less often, toes) to cold temperatures. It’s one of the earliest signs of scleroderma. When exposed to cold, your fingers become numb, swollen, and painful, and may change color.

Hardened skin

Nearly everyone with scleroderma has hard, tight, swollen patches of skin. These patches may look glossier, lighter, or darker than the rest of your skin. Depending on where these patches are, they can affect functioning. For example, you may find it difficult to bend your fingers.

DIgestive problems

Many people with scleroderma suffer from heartburn. Other digestive problems, including difficulty absorbing nutrients and difficulty swallowing, may also occur.

The widespread skin tightening and scar tissue resulting from scleroderma can cause complications in many parts of your body, including your lungs, kidneys, and heart.

How is scleroderma treated?

Scleroderma treatment focuses on managing individual symptoms of the disease and preventing or minimizing complications. Unfortunately, there’s no medication that can stop or reverse the hardening and tightening of your skin. However, with a combination of targeted treatment approaches, you can improve your quality of life with scleroderma.

Depending on your symptoms, Dr. Rizvi may recommend:

  • Calcium channel blockers or PDE5 inhibitors, drugs that open up blood vessels and improve circulation, to help with Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Anti-inflammatories and other drugs, as well as physical therapy, can help with the muscle pain and weakness common with scleroderma
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which can minimize kidney damage if scleroderma kidney disease is detected early
  • Antacids to minimize heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), to prevent damage to your lungs and esophagus

Life with scleroderma is challenging, but Dr. Rizvi is here to help you cope. Call Houston Rheumatology and Arthritis Specialists or schedule an appointment online today.