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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Scleroderma is a long-term disease that causes hardening and tightening of your skin and connective tissues. Connective tissues support your skin and surround organs. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease. This means your immune system mistakes healthy body tissue for a disease and attacks the healthy tissue. The 2 types of scleroderma are localized (mild) and systemic (severe).
You may need any of the following:
- NSAIDs decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for your condition. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.
- Ointments may be used to help relieve your skin thickness or hardness. You will need a doctor's order for these ointments. They may also be used to help prevent skin infections and ulcers.
- Antacids may be used to help reduce acid reflux in your throat and stomach.
- Antibiotics may be used to help prevent an infection in your bowels or skin caused by bacteria.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
- Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking may make your blood flow problems worse. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.
- Eat healthy foods , such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to increase the number of calories you eat, or if you need to be on a special diet.
- Reduce acid reflux. Do not eat late at night. Keep the head of your bed elevated while you sleep, or sleep in a recliner. These actions can help keep stomach acid from flowing up your esophagus.
- Go to physical therapy sessions if your healthcare provider orders physical therapy for you. Physical therapists can teach you exercises to help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.
- Avoid cold temperatures and stress. Cold air and stress may make your skin symptoms worse. Try to limit your exposure to these conditions. Wear warm clothes and gloves, and limit your time in air conditioning.
- Clean and cover your skin wounds. Carefully wash your wounds with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.
- Use over-the-counter lotion, ointments, and bath oils. These will help prevent skin dryness and cracking, and may help heal ulcers.
- Use heat to soothe your skin and joints. Heat helps decrease pain and joint stiffness. Apply heat to the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
- Avoid caffeine and medicines that make you sleepy. This may help improve your symptoms of skin tightening, thickness, or joint pain.
Follow up with your healthcare provider or specialist as directed:
Your healthcare provider may refer you to a dermatologist, rheumatologist, or other specialist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Contact your healthcare provider or specialist if:
- You have bruises that you cannot explain.
- You have wounds that will not heal, or your skin tenderness increases.
- Your muscle or joint tightness worsens, or your fingers begin to curl.
- You feel full after you eat only small amounts, or you bloat after you eat.
- You lose your appetite, or you lose weight without trying.
- You have nausea or are vomiting.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have trouble urinating, or you urinate less than usual.
- You have trouble having a bowel movement, or you lose control of your bowel movements.
- The wounds on your fingers or toes turn black.
- You have trouble swallowing.
- Your heart is beating faster than usual.
- You have chest pain or trouble breathing.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.