What is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a family of diseases that affect the skin, causing it to thicken abnormally in a process called fibrosis. These skin changes usually happen early on and develop rapidly. Scleroderma falls into two categories. Localized scleroderma has to do with the skin changes only, while systemic scleroderma is a complex autoimmune disease that impacts organs throughout the body as well as causes skin changes.
Causes of Scleroderma
While the exact cause of scleroderma is unknown, there are a variety of environmental factors that have been shown to be related, such as exposure to silica dust, chloride, resins, and solvents. Scleroderma, like many other diseases, has a genetic susceptibility but is triggered by environmental events.
Raynaud’s, which is when the fingers lose circulation and turn white when exposed to cold, is often linked to scleroderma and can be the beginning of the condition. Otherwise, the first stage of scleroderma is a skin thickening and swelling of the fingers and hands.
Scleroderma in the Workplace
Scleroderma has been shown to decrease productivity in the workplace as it interferes with the ability to move hands when trying to type on a keyboard and carry out tasks. The majority of scleroderma patients in the U.S. are employed in nonmanual work, however they still experience difficulty. Scleroderma awareness month hopes to improve the workplace for patients with scleroderma to decrease these challenges at work.
The Scleroderma Foundation has put together a toolkit with social media posts that can be shared on social media channels in order to spread awareness about the disease. There is also a National Day of Action on June 29th that will bring together thousands of people across the country to ask members of Congress to support bills that are important to cause.
Various virtual events will occur throughout the month of June as well, such as fundraising events throughout the country where participants can walk for scleroderma from their homes in order to raise funds and awareness.