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What is Scleroderma? And How Does it Affect Seniors?

Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disease that mainly affects the skin, but can also involve other organs. It is characterized by excessive collagen production, leading to hardening and thickening of the connective tissues. While this condition can affect people of all ages, its impact on seniors is quite significant. In this article, our senior caregivers in Morris County will discuss the main types of scleroderma, highlight symptoms that should not be ignored and discuss the effect scleroderma has on older adults.

Understanding the Main Types of Scleroderma 

Scleroderma is a complex disease with various subtypes, including localized scleroderma and systemic sclerosis. Localized scleroderma primarily affects the skin, while systemic sclerosis can involve the skin, blood vessels and internal organs such as the lungs, heart, kidneys and digestive system.

Scleroderma Symptoms that Shouldn’t be Ignored

Skin Changes. Scleroderma often presents with skin-related symptoms, including thickening and hardening of the skin, particularly on the hands, face and fingers. This can lead to tightness, reduced flexibility and difficulty moving the affected areas.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Many people with scleroderma experience Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes the fingers and toes to become cold, numb and discolored in response to cold temperatures or emotional stress. In severe cases, blood flow to these areas can be compromised, leading to ulcerations or gangrene.

Digestive Issues. Scleroderma can affect the digestive system, leading to more uncomfortable symptoms such as difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), acid reflux, diarrhea, bloating and constipation. 

Lung Involvement. Systemic sclerosis can cause scarring and inflammation in the lungs, which can easily cause breathing difficulties, coughing and reduced exercise tolerance. These symptoms in particular should not be ignored, as they may indicate the progression of the disease and require more serious medical care.

How Scleroderma Impacts Seniors

Older adults living with scleroderma face unique challenges due to the age-related changes in their bodies. Here are some specific ways they are affected:

Reduced Mobility. The hardening and tightening of the skin can restrict joint movement, making it harder for seniors to perform daily activities. This can lead to an increased reliance on assistive devices like walkers or caregivers.

Compromised Nutrition. Digestive issues can result in poor absorption of nutrients, leading to malnutrition. For older adults who are already at risk for nutritional deficiencies, scleroderma exacerbates this problem, further compromising the state of their overall health.

Increased Risk of Complications. Seniors with scleroderma are more vulnerable to complications such as infections, respiratory issues and organ damage due to their weakened immune systems. 

Emotional Impact. Coping with a chronic illness can take a toll on anyone. However, seniors may experience more intense feelings of frustration, anxiety, and depression due to the limitations imposed by scleroderma. 

How Our Assisted Living Community In Nj Can Help Seniors With Scleroderma 

As we’ve discussed, the impact of this condition on seniors should not be underestimated. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking timely medical care is essential for managing the disease effectively. On top of that, it is crucial to provide older adults with proper support and resources for managing their psychological well-being.

Caregivers at our assisted living community in NJ can tailor care based on each resident’s specific needs. Residents with more complex health conditions, like scleroderma, can benefit from around-the-clock assistance and emotional support provided by our team. Our caregivers are proud of the strong interpersonal relationships they have fostered over the years with every single person on campus. That being said, they can almost immediately sense when a resident is feeling down and out and will do everything in their power to “turn the beat around.” 

To learn more about how our senior living communities help seniors in New Jersey, please give us a call or visit our website at: https://jchcorp.org