You may not have heard of it but those who have scleroderma or systemic sclerosis are all too familiar with this chronic autoimmune disease.
For more than 20 years, the Scleroderma Foundation, its Chapters and Support Groups have recognized June as Scleroderma Awareness Month in hopes of bringing the disease and efforts to find a cure to the forefront.
Scleroderma is characterized by chronic hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. It’s a chronic condition that can last for years or one’s lifetime.
Scleroderma is rare and affects women more than men, commonly occurring between the ages of 30 and 50. Fewer than 200,000 cases per year are reported in the U.S.
The most common symptoms include tightening of the skin, joint pain, exaggerated response to cold (Raynaud’s disease), and heartburn. People who have scleroderma will experience pain in their joints, skin rashes, swollen blood vessels in the skin, or ulcers. In addition, they may also have acid reflux, chronic cough, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, joint stiffness, shortness of breath, tight and hardened fingers, or weight loss.
Scleroderma requires a medical diagnosis which is typically done through lab tests or imaging. In addition to one’s primary care physician, it can also involve visits to many specialists including a rheumatologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist, gastroenterologist, immunologist, nephrologist and dermatologist.
Treatments include medication, physical therapy, and surgery. But one treatment that is proving to be very effective in treating this “incurable” disease is autologous stem cell therapy. Over a two-year period treating 89 patients with scleroderma/systemic sclerosis, GIOSTAR, the Global Institute Of Stem Cell Therapy and Research, reported a 73.8% remission rate among patients in clinical trials.
Autologous stem cells come from the patient’s own body. Stem cells serve as the body’s primary internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells. In the case of a disease like scleroderma/systemic sclerosis, the stem cells differentiate into the cell type needed to fix the problem. When these healthy stem cells are introduced into the diseased area, they work by turning on and augmenting the body’s own repair mechanism.
This treatment has a proven track record throughout the world in alleviating the suffering of not only people with scleroderma/systemic sclerosis but with many other devastating autoimmune diseases.