A Connection You Can Do Without

McKee You know how you run into people you used to know every once in a while. That’s exactly what happened for me… but we discovered we had chronic disease in common. That’s why this one’s for Jeanne, a former colleague who is highly involved in spreading awareness of Scleroderma, just as I am of Chronic Kidney Disease.  Just as we have a connection, so do Scleroderma and Chronic Kidney Disease. (Cool way to slide into today’s topic, isn’t it?)

According to the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scleroderma/basics/definition/CON-20021378, scleroderma is

a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body.

In some people, scleroderma affects only the skin. But in many people, scleroderma also harms structures beyond the skin — such as blood vessels, handsinternal organs and the digestive tract. Signs and symptoms vary, depending on which structures are affected.

Scleroderma affects women more often than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. While there is no cure for scleroderma, a variety of treatments can ease symptoms and improve quality of life.

Did you catch “such as blood vessels” and “internal organs” in that definition? And that there’s no cure? Are you beginning to see the connection?

Book CoverOn page 129 of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I’ve defined an ACE inhibitor as “A blood pressure medication that lowers protein in the urine if you have CKD.”

So ACE inhibitors are helpful in CKD, but – as you’ll soon read – harmful in Scleroderma. We’ve probably all been in the position of having to choose the least harmful treatment, rather than the most helpful and here it is again.

The Scleroderma Care Foundation at http://www.sclerodermatt.org/articles/better-health/204 tells us:

Exposure to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors prior to the onset of renal crisis in patients with Scleroderma increases the risk of death, according to 1-year findings from the prospective observational International Scleroderma Renal Crisis Survey.

I went to Scleroderma.Org for this chart to help us understand which type of Scleroderma affects the kidneys.types-scleroderma-chart

We can see that Systemic scleroderma is the one that we, as CKD patients, need to pay attention to.  The following is also from Scleroderma.Org.

Systemic scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) The changes occurring in systemic scleroderma may affect the connective tissue in many parts of the body. Systemic scleroderma can involve the skin, esophagus, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowels), lungs, kidneys, heart and other internal organs. It can also affect blood vessels, muscles and joints. The tissues of involved organs become hard and fibrous, causing them to function less efficiently. The term systemic sclerosis indicates that “sclerosis” (hardening) may occur in the internal systems of the body.

I’m sure you caught “kidneys” in that definition.

Well, what about symptoms?  No one seems to know what causes Scleroderma, but maybe there’s more information about the symptoms. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/understanding-scleroderma-symptoms had this one covered.

  • Swelling, stiffness, or pain in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face
  • Puffy skin
  • Discolored skin
  • Fingers and toes that react strongly to cold — they may look white and hurt. This is called Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Red spots on the fingers, palms, face, lips, or tongue. These are called telangiectasias. They happen when tiny blood vessels are widened.
  • Ulcers or sores on fingertips, knuckles, or elbows
  • Fatigue or feeling tired
  • Shortness of breath, caused by heart or lung damage
  • Problems digesting food — for example, heartburn, trouble swallowing, or food moving slower than usual through your system

Some of the latter symptoms may be the same as those for CKD, but this does not automatically mean you have CKD…or Scleroderma for that chartmatter.  See your doctor to be tested for each if you have CKD and think you’re developing Scleroderma or vice-versa.

Now there’s another question.  What is the testing for Scleroderma? Our old friend Lab Tests Online at https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/scleroderma/start/3 offered a complex answer to this question.  Below are the usual tests, but there are groups of others to determine which organs are affected, the severity of the disease, the type of Scleroderma, etc.

A battery of tests is performed to detect the presence or absence of autoantibodies that are generally associated with the diagnosis of scleroderma. They include:

So now we know what Scleroderma is, how it can be determined if you have it, what type you have if you do, and how it may be connected to CKD. By the way, to date, there is no way of preventing this disease.

Now the biggie.  What can you do about it? Time to check with MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/scleroderma/page4.htm#what_is_the_treatment_for_scleroderma

Treatment of scleroderma is directed toward the individual features affecting different areas of the body.

Aggressive treatments of elevations in blood pressure have been extremely important in preventing kidney failure. Blood pressure medications, particularly the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor class of drugs, such as lisinopril, are frequently used.

scleroderma-systemic-sclerosis_3See what I mean about choosing the medication that prevents the most harm rather than one that does the most good?

While research is ongoing, there are support groups for Scleroderma patients just as there are for CKD patients, although I wasn’t able to find one for sufferers of both diseases. The Scleroderma Foundation at http://www.scleroderma.org/site/PageServer?pagename=chapter_locator has an interactive map with addresses of in person support groups. Online, there’s Dailystrenth.org at http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Scleroderma/support-group, as well as a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scleroderma-Support-Group/498039106944584. Of course there are others, but these might be the best places to start if you’re looking for support groups.

I am sitting here writing my blog in the midst of a post vacation cold that’s taking three weeks to run its course. Ah, the joys of having a compromised immune system (She wrote sarcastically.). After writing this blog, I’m feeling very lucky that this is all I’m dealing with as a result of my CKD.IMG_1398

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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