When Maria’s aging father began to develop shiny hard patches of skin on his hands and face, she thought it was just a minor condition due to age. However, as he began to struggle with sore fingers and toes, plus a sensitivity to extreme temperatures, she knew something wasn’t right. After a visit to the doctor, Maria found out that her father had an autoimmune disorder known as scleroderma. Although she and her father had never heard of it, their lives were about to change because of this chronic condition.
Scleroderma affects the body’s skin and connective tissues. It can manifest with mild to severe symptoms and is most common in middle-aged and elderly women. More than 300,000 Americans are living with scleroderma, so it is a somewhat rare condition that is on the rise. Family caregivers can learn all about late-onset scleroderma during June’s Scleroderma Awareness Month. Here are a few interesting facts about the symptoms and treatment of late-onset scleroderma in the elderly:
- Scleroderma has no cure and researchers are not sure what causes it.
- When scleroderma is discovered in elderly adults it is called late-onset scleroderma.
- With this condition, the body’s immune system detects the cells within the connective tissue as enemies and launches an attack that causes inflammation and scarring.
- There are two kinds of scleroderma—localized (less serious) and systemic (more serious).
- Common symptoms include painful joints, inflammation, numbness in the fingers and toes, gastrointestinal distress and organ stress.
- Scleroderma can be dangerous to the health and wellness of elderly adults because the hardened tissues that surround vital organs like the lungs or the heart reduce their function.
- If seniors already have problems with an organ and they develop scleroderma, it can cause additional strain and stress on that organ.
- Treatment for late-onset scleroderma includes medicine to control inflammation, pain, heartburn and circulation.
- Physical therapy can help many elderly adults with scleroderma stay more flexible and relive pain throughout the body.
- In severe cases, doctors may recommend surgery to remove hardened tissue from around one or more organs.
- Scleroderma in seniors can reduce their ability to do daily tasks for themselves like bathing dressing, housekeeping and making meals.
- Many elderly adults with scleroderma find they need to rely on family caregivers and elder care providers if they desire to age at home.
If an elderly relative is diagnosed with late-onset scleroderma, it will certainly affect their life as well as that of their family caregiver. The good news is that there is a well-developed support group for people with scleroderma that can provide guidance and insight into what it means to live with the disorder. With the support of family, friends, elder care providers and a doctor who is familiar with the disease, elderly adults can remain as comfortable as possible.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering elder care in Cupertino, CA, please contact the caring staff at Bay Area Home Care. Call today 650-938-4031.