Scleroderma is an auto immune disorder. Its symptoms can be minor but left untreated, can have severe consequences. Marcie Fraser has more.
"We still don't have a cure and those who have very aggressive disease or identified late, there are individuals who had lung transplants, stem cell transplants, if they didn't respond," said Dr. Lee Sharpiro, rheumatologist.
Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease.
"The body's immune system stimulates the fibroblasts, the cells that make collagen, to make way too much, so some people have skin thickening on their fingers or internally," explained Dr. Sharpiro.
It was ten years ago when Nancy’s hands swelled up and became red, and she also noticed spots on her face and neck.
"There are fewer blood vessels than there should be in scleroderma but the few that remain in the skin form these red dots which blanch on pressure, they are called telangiectasia, a long word," said Dr. Sharpiro.
Symptoms also include shortness of breath, heart burn, and the most common symptom is Raynaud’s.
"An intense attack of blanching or whitening of the fingers, so the end point to that is getting sores on the fingertips. When people with Raynaud's get sores or ulcers on their fingers, those are usually the individuals who have scleroderma whether they know it or not," said Dr. Sharpiro.
The longer it goes untreated, the more potential damage to internal organs. It has affected Nancy's lungs, and her fingers have now contracted.
"It's a disease not just on the skin, it is a disease where it can have fibrosis internally involving the heart, lung, or any part of the GI tract," said Dr. Sharpiro.
It impacts more women than men.
"For men, it may have an occupational exposure may be a trigger, an organic solvent or silica dust," said Dr. Sharpiro.
There are several FDA approved medications for scleroderma. In addition to medication, lifestyle changes are necessary in order to manage the disease.
Nancy takes yoga and receives physical therapy. She is currently not taking any of medication.