June is Scleroderma Awareness Month
When it comes to health, awareness is so important. That’s why we want to highlight a little-known disease that disproportionately affects women, scleroderma.
June is Scleroderma Awareness Month, and with World Scleroderma Day coming up on June 29th, we want to share some important information about this chronic autoimmune disease; which causes thickening and tightening of the skin.
What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Autoimmune diseases affect up to 50 million Americans. There are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. Often running in families, 75 percent of those affected are women, and African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are at increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
Here are some basics on scleroderma from the Scleroderma Foundation:
- It is not contagious nor is it cancerous.
- It strikes women 4 to 1 over men.
- The onset typically occurs between the ages of 25 and 55.
- It affects 300,000 people in the U.S.
- There is no known cause and there is currently no cure.
So what is scleroderma?
To begin, let’s decode the name. “Sclero” means “hard” and “derma” means “skin,” and hardening skin is one the defining symptoms.
According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms include:
- Skin. Nearly everyone who has scleroderma experiences a hardening and tightening of patches of skin. Skin can appear shiny because it's so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
- Fingers or toes. One of the earliest signs of scleroderma is numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes. This is called Raynaud's phenomenon, a condition which also occurs in people who don't have scleroderma.
- Digestive system. Problems can include acid reflux as well as trouble absorbing nutrients.
- Heart, lungs or kidneys. Rarely, scleroderma can affect the function of the heart, lungs or kidneys, problems that can be life-threatening.
Once believed to be a rare condition, today more people are diagnosed with scleroderma than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or cystic fibrosis.
At EleVen, we are particularly passionate about raising awareness of autoimmune diseases since Venus has Sjogren's syndrome, another little-known autoimmune disorder that causes fatigue and joint pain. Like scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome is more common in women than men, and there is no known cause nor a cure.
In order for researchers to better understand these diseases, and to begin to identify causes and cures, they require additional research and awareness. When few people are aware of a disease, oftentimes researchers may not receive the resources they need. Learn more about scleroderma, and other autoimmune disorders. By raising awareness, you just might help find a cure!