Options for Protecting Skin and Joints With Scleroderma

Stiff, Painful Joints
In diffuse systemic sclerosis, hand joints can stiffen because of hardened skin around the joints or inflammation of the joints themselves. Other joints can also become stiff and swollen. Scleroderma treatments that may help relieve this include the following:
 
  • Exercise regularly. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about an exercise plan that will help you increase and maintain range of motion in affected joints. Swimming can help maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and joint mobility.
 
  • Use acetaminophen or an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), as recommended by your doctor, to help relieve joint or muscle pain. If pain is severe, speak to a rheumatologist about the possibility of prescription-strength drugs to ease pain and inflammation.
 
  • Learn to do things in a new way. A physical or occupational therapist can help you learn to perform daily tasks, such as lifting and carrying objects or opening doors, in ways that will put less stress on tender joints.
 
Skin Problems
When too much collagen builds up in the skin, it crowds out sweat and oil glands, causing the skin to become dry and stiff. If your skin is affected, you may need to see a dermatologist. To ease dry skin, consider the following options:
 
  • Apply oil-based creams and lotions frequently, and always right after bathing.
  • Apply sunscreen before you venture outdoors to protect against further damage by the sun's rays.
  • Use humidifiers to moisten the air in your home in colder winter climates. (Clean humidifiers often to stop bacteria from growing in the water.)
  • Avoid very hot baths and showers, as hot water dries the skin.
  • Avoid harsh soaps, household cleaners, and caustic chemicals, if at all possible. If that's not possible, be sure to wear rubber gloves when you use such products.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise, especially swimming, stimulates blood circulation to affected areas.

Scleroderma Disease

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