The symptoms of scleroderma can cause you a lot of pain and discomfort. It’s not just the skin that is affected. Many other areas of your body can also be targeted including your joints, muscles and internal organs. If untreated it will affect your overall health and cause significant disruption to your everyday life.

However, with the correct treatment and care, you can improve your health and quality of living. If in need of a scleroderma specialist, Brisbane residents can book an appointment with us. If you think you have any of the early signs of scleroderma you should contact us immediately.

What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a connective tissue disorder that causes the skin to tighten and harden as a result of excess collagen. The autoimmune disease results in overactivity of the immune system, causing damage to blood vessels and injury to tissues. This then leads to the formation of scar tissue and the accumulation of excess collagen.

Collagen plays a significant role in strengthening connective tissue but an excess of collagen results in the hardening and tightening of the affected area. There are two primary types of scleroderma:

  • Localised scleroderma - this form of scleroderma mainly affects only the skin but may also have an impact on joints, muscles and bones.
  • Systemic sclerosis - this form affects the connective tissue in other parts of the body including internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract and others.

What are the symptoms of scleroderma?

Scleroderma affects a number of different areas of the body and symptoms vary from patient to patient depending on which parts are affected. Patients may suffer from any of the following symptoms:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling and thickening of the fingers
  • Thickening and hardening of the skin
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Calcium deposits on areas such as your fingers, elbows and knees
  • Shortness of breath as a result of scarring of the lungs
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • High blood pressure
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Small red spots on your face and chest

The specific symptoms of scleroderma depend on which type of autoimmune disease a patient is suffering from. However, the majority of patients will see changes to their skin, typically experiencing hardening and tightening around the affected areas.

scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that damages your blood vessels.

What causes scleroderma?

The causes are unknown but there is some evidence to suggest that both environmental and genetic factors may play a role. Silica and other organic solvents are recognized as possible risk factors for systemic scleroderma. Studies in the US have also discovered that it is 13 times more likely to appear in first-degree relatives of scleroderma patients compared to the rest of the population.

How is scleroderma diagnosed?

There is currently no specific test for either form of scleroderma. However, our expert team of Rheumatologists are constantly working together to ensure that first signs and symptoms are diagnosed as quickly as possible. They will work with you to take an extensive medical and family history to gather as much information as possible.

A physical examination and a number of tests will be carried out (including blood tests and skin biopsies) to ensure a diagnosis is confirmed as swiftly as possible.

Can scleroderma be cured in Australia?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for scleroderma. Researchers are still actively trying to find a cure for this condition. However, our team of expert Brisbane Rheumatologists will advise you on a number of different options available to you that will enable you to control your symptoms and lessen the impact on your everyday life. It’s important to note that you should avoid any products or treatments that claim to cure scleroderma.

scleroderma

Scleroderma affects the blood vessels, causing damage to them as a result of the excess collagen produced.

Scleroderma treatment

Treating diseases like scleroderma typically focuses on management of inflammation, autoimmunity, vascular issues and tissue fibrosis. Rheumatologists may suggest some or all of the following treatments:

  • Easing skin irritation with dedicated lotions and moisturisers
  • Pain relief through nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroids
  • Use of immunosuppressive drugs to slow the thickening of the skin and minimise damage to the internal organs
  • Physiotherapy to maintain muscle strength
  • Medication to control blood pressure and improve blood flow
  • Dietary plan to manage digestive tract function
  • Treatment of individual symptoms such as Raynaud’s phenomenon and indigestion
  • Minor surgery to treat certain complications

With either medication, lifestyle changes or a combination of both, many symptoms of scleroderma can be improved. Our Rheumatologists will work closely with you to tailor a specific plan based on the symptoms and severity of your condition.

Localised scleroderma

Localised scleroderma affects mostly the skin due to the damage done to your blood vessels but can also affect your joints, muscles and bones.

How can we help?

Our main aim is to ensure that you can live the best life possible despite your condition. Each of our Rheumatologists specialise in different areas of rheumatology and combine their experience and expertise to devise the most comprehensive treatment plans possible - especially when a complex combination of symptoms are presented.

Above all, we ensure to treat each patient as an individual and will tailor your treatment plan accordingly. All treatments will be designed to ensure that your daily routine and "life commitments" are disrupted as little as possible.

With the option of seeing either a male or female Rheumatologist, we pride ourselves on providing an inclusive, safe and confidential environment for the residents of Queensland and its surrounding communities.

Our Scleroderma
Doctors

Our Rheumatologists are compassionate, caring, and committed to providing you with treatment plans tailored to your individual needs. Meet our expert team below.

ArthritisCARE Rheumatologists
Dr Peter Landsberg

MBBS (Hons), DipRACOG, FRACGP, FRACP

Peter founded rheumatology.com.au in 2016. He is a specialist Rheumatologist with a keen interest in treating inflammatory arthritis and connective tissue disorders. His earlier years spent as a General Practitioner allow him to offer a uniquely holistic approach to patient care. He also has a strong commitment to being involved in training upcoming Rheumatologists.

Dr Clare Owens

MBBS, BSc, FRACP

Clare has a passion for research. She completed her rheumatology training in Queensland and was awarded the prestigious Arthritis Australia International Research Grant, which allowed her to undertake research at the University of Leeds in the UK, a recognised European Rheumatology Centre of Excellence. Her specific areas of interest include osteoarthritis, soft tissue rheumatism, gout and connective tissue diseases such as lupus.

Dr Sergei Grosman

MBBS, BSc, FRACP

Sergei completed advanced training in General and Acute Care Medicine in 2018, after which he pursued his strong interest in Rheumatology. He spent his training years in hospitals in Sydney, Brisbane and across Queensland. Sergei has a keen interest in all aspects of rheumatology and works closely with his patients to provide an individualised approach to care.

Dr Louise McCormack

MBBS (Hons), BSc, FRACP

Louise holds fellowships from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in both General Medicine and Rheumatology and has been expertly practising as a Rheumatologist for over 12 years. In addition to her role at rheumatology.com.au, she provides her consultant specialist expertise to the Princess Alexandra Hospital and QEII Hospital Rheumatology Clinics in Brisbane.

Dr Maryam Zia

MBBS, MD, FRACP

Maryam specialised in 2019 after having completed her initial training at the University of Punjab in Pakistan. She completed her advanced training at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane and at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. She is interested in all aspects of inflammatory autoimmune diseases.

Dr Joseph O'Callaghan

MBBS, BSc, FRACP

Dr Joseph O'Callaghan is a consultant in adult general rheumatology. He is a visiting Rheumatologist at the Mater Adult Hospital. He undertook his rheumatology training in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney and in Edmonton, Canada. He completed an MD on the anti-inflammatory effects of methotrexate while a Spurway Fellow in Rheumatology at the Royal North Shore Hospital. Dr O'Callaghan has an interest in all aspects of rheumatology care.

Dr Divita Jhaveri

MBBS (Hons), FRACP

Dr Divita Jhaveri (MBBS (Hons), FRACP) is a Queensland trained Rheumatologist who gained her medical qualification from James Cook University in Townsville followed by residency and rheumatology training in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. She is currently also a visiting staff specialist at the Logan Hospital and the QE II Hospital and investigator for rheumatology clinical trials at Griffith University. She is also an associate lecturer at the University of Queensland. Divita is interested in offering patient-centered care for a variety of conditions such as arthritis, auto-immune muscle diseases etc.

FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any more questions regarding scleroderma you can contact us to make an inquiry. However, the section below covers all of our most frequently asked questions.

Make
an enquiry

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