Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease which is mainly characterized as the development of scar tissue in various parts of the body. This is a result of damages caused when antibodies in the immune system attack the body’s tissues, which is contrary to its purpose of protecting the body from harmful substances. While the most common body part which is affected by scleroderma is the skin, the lungs are also quite commonly affected constituting about 80% of all cases of scleroderma.
Scleroderma lung disease and all the other complications brought about by it has emerged as the leading cause of fatalities in all cases of scleroderma. Considering that, everyone who has scleroderma should not take lung involvement lightly and should seek immediate medical attention. Lung involvement can occur in either limited or diffuse scleroderma, thus all patients with scleroderma should be aware of what could happen.
How Are The Lungs Involved In Scleroderma?
There is no known cause of scleroderma. What is known is only how scleroderma works and that it can affect a lot of organs including the lungs. Scleroderma usually starts off with the skin or the joints which called as calcinosis or Raynaud’s phenomenon. If the case goes worse, then scleroderma would begin spreading within the body. If it gets to the lungs, then that would be the beginning of lung involvement in scleroderma.
The first visible signs of scleroderma lung disease would be if you show the primary symptoms of scleroderma which is found on the skin and followed by shortness of breath and constant dry coughing without mucus. This in turn could bring about pulmonary hypertension and as well as many other lung diseases other than scleroderma.
Intersitial Lung Disease And Pulmonary Hypertension
Scarring and inflammation of the lungs is called interstitial lung disease or ILD. This can be suspected when the doctor would hear a crackling sound while examining with a stethoscope but is properly diagnosed when the lungs are tested by complete pulmonary function testing. After that, the amount of inflammation of the lungs will be measure by either a chest x-ray or a CT scan. Other processes that can be done are lung biopsy and HRCT
Pulmonary hypertension is brought about by the scarring of the lungs. Since blood vessels are attacked, blood flow to the lungs is limited causing the function of the lungs to be limited too. This in turn can also cause shortness of breath. Pulmonary hypertension is a completely different illness and should treatment for it should be different.
Since all cases of scleroderma have no known treatment yet, there is also no known cure for it, although it can still be managed. Treatment for hypertension is more focused on preventing further damage and on attempting to restore organ function to normal, although this is considerably difficult. Treatment for lung involvement in scleroderma would include medications, therapies and surgeries.
While it can be treated with medical attention, it is still very important that the patient should also handle the case responsibly on his or her own. Some things that can be done to help are to stop smoking or to avoid passive smoke if you are not a smoker. Not only can smoke worsen a condition of lung involvement in scleroderma but it can also bring about a lot of different illnesses as well. It would also help if the patient keeps a healthy lifestyle.