As one of the nation’s leading rheumatology centers, Duke specializes in diagnosing and treating scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to become thick and rigid. It may affect other vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys, gut and heart. Our experienced rheumatologists have dedicated their lives to researching the causes of this rare condition and testing new therapies to improve your condition and help restore your quality of life.
Comprehensive Care for Scleroderma
If you have scleroderma, you need a health care team that’s skilled in diagnosing your disease and managing its effects. Our rheumatologists partner with specialists throughout Duke to develop a treatment plan that meets your individual needs and offers the best options for improving your quality of life.
Choose Duke for your scleroderma treatment because we offer:
- Nationally ranked program. Our rheumatology program is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
- An active research program. You may be eligible to participate in our ongoing clinical trials that test new therapies for scleroderma. Our ongoing studies help us better understand the cause of scleroderma, and uncover the most effective techniques for managing the disease.
- A team approach to care. Scleroderma affects the skin and other tissues and organs throughout the body, including the lungs, nerves and skin. Our physicians work closely with Duke psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, physical therapists, orthopaedic surgeons, dermatologists and pulmonologists. Together, we develop the most appropriate care plan for you.
Your team of doctors will develop a treatment plan for you based on the severity of your condition and its effects on your body’s organs and tissues. Treatments focus on managing the varied symptoms of the disease and may include:
Reduce inflammation, decrease skin thickening and relieve muscle pain and weakness.
Calcium channel blockers and phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors are vasodilators that open narrowed blood vessels to improve circulation.
Decrease stomach acid to improve swallowing function and decrease abdominal pain.
Improves flexibility and joint function.
Scleroderma can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other conditions. Your evaluation will begin with a review of your medical history and a comprehensive physical exam. Scleroderma may spread throughout the body, causing the formation of scar tissue that can damage vital organs. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, your doctor may order the following tests to determine the severity of your condition:
Check for antibodies and signs of inflammation.
An ultrasound that tests heart function to determine if scleroderma is affecting your heart.
Measures how well your lungs are working, and determines whether the disease has affected your lungs.
A small tube equipped with a camera is inserted down the throat to view your esophagus and intestines to determine if they have been affected by scleroderma.
Measures the strength of your swallowing muscles to determine if they have been affected by scleroderma.
Uses a microscope to examine the blood vessels under your fingernail for signs of scleroderma.