Is There a Link Between Genetics, Environment, and Scleroderma?

Scleroderma Causes: Genetic Makeup

Although genes seem to put certain people at risk for scleroderma, the disease is not passed from parent to child. However, some scleroderma research suggests that having children may increase a woman's risk of developing the condition. Scientists have learned that when a woman is pregnant, cells from her baby can pass through the placenta, enter her bloodstream, and linger in her body -- in some cases, for many years after her child's birth.
 
Recently, scientists have found fetal cells from pregnancies of years past in the skin lesions of some women with scleroderma. They believe that these cells, which are different from the woman's own cells, may either begin an immune reaction to the woman's own tissues or enable the woman's immune system to rid her body of these cells. Either way, the woman's healthy tissues may be damaged in the process. Further studies are needed to find out if fetal cells play a role in scleroderma.

(Click Scleroderma for more information about the disease, including types, subtypes, and treatment options.)
 

Scleroderma Causes: Environmental Triggers

Research also suggests that exposure to environmental factors may trigger the disease in people who are genetically predisposed to it. These triggers may include:
 
  • Viral infections
  • Certain adhesive and coating materials
  • Organic solvents, such as vinyl chloride or trichloroethylene.
 
In the past, some people believed that silicone breast implants might have been a factor in developing connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma. However, several studies have not shown evidence of a connection between silicone breast implants and scleroderma.
 

Scleroderma Disease

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