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Early Symptoms of Scleroderma


How can holistic healing help me rid myself of scleroderma? I have had it about five months. Thank you, June

Dr. Leia’s Answer:

Dear June, Scleroderma is a chronic disorder that affects the skin, including hardened or tight skin, with swelling and thickening. Early symptoms of scleroderma involve just the surface of the skin or the ends of the fingers or hands and upper body.

Scleroderma PicturesCutaneous scleroderma can be can be classified as either limited or diffuse, meaning that it can become more widespread involving not only the skin, but also other joints, internal organs, and the blood vessels. It seems to affect women more than men, and usually appears between the ages of 30 to 65 years of age. The prevalence of scleroderma in the United States can be as high as 400 cases out of one million people.

The causes, even though not known, may be related to exposure to silica, solvent chemicals such as vinyl chloride, epoxy resins, benzene, trichloroethylene, and carbon tetrachloride, or radiation exposure. Viruses such as the human cytomegalovirus and the herpes virus 5 have been implicated also, but this is not confirmed. Sometimes scleroderma is present in combination with other autoimmune disorders. Usually, there has been, or is, some type of cellular injury or cellular reproductive trauma involved.

It is important to avoid Vitamin C in large doses, usually greater than 1000 mg. because Vitamin C stimulates the production of collagen, which is abnormally deposited under the skin and in other parts of the body in this disorder. So taking more vitamins and minerals may not be the solution to this problem, but may exacerbate the scleroderma. Because scleroderma may be an autoimmune disease, it is probably best to stay away from immune enhancing herbs and drugs which may only accelerate the disorder.

acupuncture treatment for sclerodermaAlso important is to keep the body temperature warm to prevent or minimize the development of Raynaud’s Syndrome (RS), which is the presence of abnormal sensitivity to cold in the extremities, and which may occur concurrently with scleroderma. It is important to maintain daily physical activity so that complete range of motion is maintained and joints do not become stiff or decrease in their mobility. Keeping active is very important in order to prevent progression of this disorder.

As far as holistic treatments, you might seek out a licensed homeopathic practitioner and/or an acupuncture treatment for scleroderma in your area. Both of these modalities may be able to help with this disorder and to keep the scleroderma from spreading or progressing. If the scleroderma is indeed caused by toxic chemicals, it would be a good idea to have a holistic practitioner do a toxic scan of your body to ascertain if there are any chemical toxins present in your body. There exist special tests which can measure petrochemicals, organotoxins, and other toxics. They should also check for heavy metals, which can be determined by performing a hair mineral analysis. Simple conventional laboratory testing can check for cytomegalovirus and herpes virus. If any toxins are then found, your practitioner can then instruct you in a detoxification protocol depending upon the toxins found.

Good luck in your healing program.

Follow-up Question

Dear Dr. Leia Melead,

I am a South African and have a 37 year old sister who has been diagnosed with scleroderma. The condition is worsening as her whole body including her face is hardening. She complains of pain especially on her thighs and hands (one of her hands cannot stretch anymore) and is forever scratching her skin due to itchiness; heartburn is also one of her problems.

Any tips in respect to the type of medication to be taken to ease the pain, dry skin, and itchiness?

Kind regards,
Thembi Tsibogo

Dr. Leia’s Answer

Dear Thembi Tsibogo,

Schleroderma is a rare progressive autoimmune disease which is difficult to treat. It is important that she stretches and keeps active, otherwise the skin will become tight and harden. However, I realize that it is difficult to keep active and stretch because of the pain. It is a double-edged sword. In order to continue exercising, one must be pain-free, and when one feels pain, she will not want to exercise.

I have been treating one patient with acupuncture and she says that it does help her somewhat, so you might seek out an Acupuncturist who could help her. Acupuncture gives pain relief for many problems, and hopefully, it will help your sister.

It might be possible that toxins are implicated in this disorder, so you might want to have her checked for the different toxins which I mention in my first answer above. Stay away from natural substances that increase the collagen production, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and even large amounts of vitamin C. Because scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder, the body begins to attack itself and does not recognize its own tissues and cells as its own. This makes it difficult to treat properly. However, if there is some toxic substance found in her body, then this substance can be removed or chelated out from her body under the supervision of a natural doctor who could help her with a special detoxification process, but the toxic substance must first be identified. Undergoing a detoxification process can be difficult and cause many symptoms as she goes through the process, so it is important that she have medical supervision during this time.

For her itching, it might be good to make sure that she has enough essential fatty acids or oils (flax oil and seeds are a good source) in her diet and as an added supplement. Essential fatty acids are good for lubricating the skin, and can be taken both orally and applied topically to the skin. As far as the pain that she is experiencing, she could try some natural anti-inflammatory products such as Omega 3 fish oil tablets which contain both EPA and DHA. Other good anti-inflammatory products could include a bromelain-quercetin complex.

One new product which I am considering for autoimmune problems and toxic substances is called Orenda Immune. I usually do not recommend Immune products for autoimmune disorders; however, Orenda Immune appears to be different and contains substances that help to detoxify the body rather than build up the immune system. The ingredients are listed plainly on the site, so you may be able to get some of these ingredients individually in your country. Sorry that I cannot offer any more help in this regards.

Good luck to you and your sister.

Update: The video above this post aims to share more details regarding scleroderma symptoms, research and treatment options.

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  1. Hello, Dr Leia Melead. I have heard about a product named Orditin for scleroderma. Is it a proven remedy? Is it safe? Where could I read more about it besides the manufacturer’s website? Thanks, Mathew

  2. Dear Matthew,

    Thank you for asking this important question. Orditin appears to be a homeopathic remedy, and as such, if it does not work, then usually there should be no harm done. However, I cannot vouch for its safety or effectiveness.

    I currently have one patient with Scleroderma who is into the second of three months taking this product. When I asked her if she noticed any results from taking this product, she replied that she did not as of yet, but has decided to continue using the product for the full three months, following the instructions as directed. The total cost for three months of this product appears to be about $150 US dollars. I did notice that there is a 100% guarantee refund if one is not pleased with the results of the product. Even though the address on the website is listed in Germany, the product appeared to be shipped from Pakistan. I can’t imagine any remedy for any disease which actually gives 100% guarantee that it will work for everyone. So this makes the product suspect, and time will tell if my patient will be able to obtain positive results or her money back. In the meantime, she did say that Acupuncture works well to help with the constant pain which she is experiencing.

    Sorry, that I cannot offer any better information about this product yet. Instead, let me offer a new link to a website which shares extensive compiled information about autoimmune diseases, without any one affiliation: Understanding Scleroderma

  3. How is the percentage of your body affected by scleroderma measured?

  4. Himanshu Bhargava

    Dear Doctor,
    My mother is suffering from Scleroderma, she is in her late 50s. The spread of the disorder has affected her skin, joints and perhaps lungs as well. Skin hardening, stiffness in muscles & joints and low tolerance to cold temperatures are the prime problems she faces. She has been taking medication for the same and has been using ointments to soften the skin, they have shown improvement in her condition but not satisfactory.
    I have studied the cases above and will try to get her scanned for toxins. During my research on web regarding Scleroderma I came across a medicine called Orditin. This is a homeopathic medicine produced from natural ingredients and claims to be 100% successful with no side effects. Since it is homeopathic, it seems possible to be side effect free but even so, as you have discussed that natural herbs and medicines can also intensify the disorder, I am not sure weather to get her to use it or not. Please advice.

    • I have had this desease for almost 15 years now and it is getting worse …pain and other stuff…. sucks but not much i can do just pray and ask God for strength, power and love… ..i am taking hydromorph for pain .and it helps alot ,but i dont think the pain ever goes away..I also have problems with my tyroid ,fingers throat feet ,skin etc.etc i use alot of lotion for my skin…. what drives me the most crazy is my itchy skin…and i get so tired for being in bed so much again i have no choice …i feel cold all the time.. i am like a bear in the winter i cant go out …i hybernate… I try to smile most of the time like to laugh as much as i can …because i cry alot too …lol i know it must sound funny …..but thats what gets going….. i have a hard time handling stress so i try very hard to be possitive and be around people that are positive and happy…. you take care i hope to hear from you

  5. Himanshu Bhargava

    I seem to have skipped the case about Orditin, but it seems that your patient by now would have completed the course of the medicine and perhaps you would be in a better state to comment better on the credibility of this treatment. Please do reply.

  6. Dear Himanshu,
    It did not seem to make any difference in my patient’s health or disease process. I do not recommend the product. Thank you for your inquiry. Instead, I recommend a product called Orenda Immune.
    It has been helping many people, especially those with auto immune disorders. The dosage should be one capsule in the morning and one in the evening, for a few weeks then increase to two capsules twice daily and then 3 capsules twice daily for at least a month. If improvement is noted, please continue the product.
    Good luck and let us know of your results.

  7. Hello Dr. Leia,

    I have recently written an article on a product called DIM; it possess several great properties, from the research I seen, and I was wondering if it was safe to take with my Scleroderma. I am firm believer in holistic healing but I am terrified of taking something and making my disease worse. I truly believe in my heart that hormones play a key role in my Scleroderma “crisis’s” and DIM has proven to balance hormonal levels and even destroy cancer cells. So, in my mind it seems to make sense, however, what makes sense in my head may not in my body.

    Thank you so much,

  8. Hi,
    For any patients or family members of those suffering from Scleroderma or any other rheumatic/ autoimmune disease please check out http://www.roadback.org for information on a safe, effective treatment with low dose tetracycline antibiotic therapy.

  9. After six years of arthritis type pain and difficulty swallowing, food gets stuck in esophagus, and also bouts of irritable bowel, a new doctor thought my hands looked different. The doctor is testing for Schleroderma. My hands don’t look different to me really. I haven’t noticed any Renaud’s, do you think I could have Schleroderma without Renauds? Also, Would it make my eye socket feel tight, but not my face?

  10. I have had Scleroderma for 13 years. I was put on prednisone right away (40 mg) and noticed substantial difference in everything. I could walk up and down stairs and exercise. I have worked my way down to 2 mg a week but have no energy. I have heard that pycnogenol could help bring my energy level back up. Do you know anything about this?

  11. Dear Connie,
    Thank you for asking about this interesting supplement. Pycnogenol is an extract from the bark of French maritime pine trees. It has been shown to have minor side effects including nausea, dizziness, stomach distress, and headaches. It is a strong antioxidant, immune stimulant, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Also, it appears to lower blood pressure and strengthen collagen and elastin. Because of its immune enhancing properties, and its collagen and elastin strengthening properties, I would caution you not to take this product. As you know, Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder, so most immune enhancement products are not recommended. Also, it would be counterproductive or even dangerous to use a product which may strengthen your collagen and elastin because of the nature of Scleroderma. I would not recommend this product for your condition. You might want to talk with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your daily regimen. Other energy enhancers that might be possible for you to take may include Eleuthrococcus or Maca. However, please check with your doctor first before trying them.

  12. Hello, I am 30 years old and I have some problems with my fingers and toes going stiff on me over the years. I was checking on Web MD, cause I was having a problem with my toe and then I remembered that I have had a problem with my fingers a few years ago. Anyways, I saw Scleroderma on the list and I almost forgot that my grandmother had and died of Scleroderma. I was reading some of the signs of limited Scleroderma and I am scared that I may have it also. Can it be passed from my grandmother to me? And if so, could I start seeing signs of it as early as in my twenties? Thanks for answering my questions.

  13. Dear Alicia H,

    I can understand your concern and questions about this unusual disease. Even though the causes of Scleroderma are unknown, there have been genetic links to this problem. Toxins have also been implicated as discussed above. Most cases are usually diagnosed in females between the ages of 30 and 50. Instead of trying to self diagnosis, please visit your doctor and tell him or her of your concerns about this disease along with your symptoms. Since it is an autoimmune disorder, there are several diagnostic tests which can be run to determine your status of immune function. You might want to try Acupuncture to help with your stiffness and pain. Here is a link which gives a good description of Schleroderma
    I hope this helps. Good luck.

  14. Hi Alicia … I too had problems for a while with my fingers getting very stiff when I woke up in the morning. I found it had to do with hormones, and lack of the correct nutrition. I began taking good quality nutrition, and a progesterone cream and the problem went away. My doctor thought it was arthritis setting in, but this soon proved him wrong.

  15. I am a patient with scleroder and I happen to be in my mid twenties. I have a black scar on my face that stretches to my nose which has given me a depression. So I wish to ask whether I can bleach it?

  16. Dear Alicia, my baby sister has recently been diagnosed with Scleroderma. I would like to know about the psychological side of this disease. She is taking physical therapy but she is afraid to stand. She almost died from the disease, but now she is afraid. We also lost our mother while she was going through. What could we as the family do to assist her, thanks?

    • Not sure what to say , except i have terrible ( scleroderma…. all i want is my children family friend to care and love i guess … im taking hydromorph for pain ,but i dont think the pain ever goes away.. i am getting worst but i have excepted it in a way… 🙂 not much i can do but pray and i ask God for comfort and love and this seems to work for me…i like to laugh and im having a hard time using my fingers too the finger i can only use now for tying is my 3rd finger…. i cry alot ,but thats ok i guess i get so tired of this but not much i can do just pray you take care …love you all

  17. I was diagnosed with Scleroderma in August of this year and my rheumatologist has had me on 100mg of Minocycline twice daily since, and it has done wonders for my throat and neck tightness, difficulty swallowing, and my energy levels returned within 48 hours of starting this. It’s an off label use for scleroderma but is very inexpensive and I would recommend all scleroderma patients try this treatment.

  18. Hi could you tell me which country you live in. I know in the States, this is more accepted than perhaps in the Uk. I have broached this with my rheumatologist, but she wasn’t too confident.

    Many thanks

  19. I am thirty-four years old and have recently been diagnosed with scleroderma. I don’t have any symptoms of tightening of the skin although I have several spider veins and bruising. I also have acid reflux. I undergo heart and lung testing once a year for the rest of my life since my rheumatoid doctor has advised me to do so since I have diffuse scleroderma. I also have Raynaud’s Syndrome (RS) but not extreme. My question is if the early symptoms will become greater or am I in a small percentile that this will remain the same?

  20. I was bitten by a black widow spider a few years ago, and arthritic conditions developed soon afterward. Is there any evidence that the neuro-toxins in the venum can cause auto-immune problems such as arthritis,and scleroderma? My rheumatologist seems indifferent to my condition and I feel at a loss as to how to get help. I am in great and constant pain, and am beginning to have muscle stiffening as well as joint freezing. At this point I am taking no meds, and would like to find something to ease the misery. Thanks for any advice.

  21. My daughter is 25 and was diagnosed with Raynauds Phenomenom when she was 15. I know there is not cure but her symptoms have increased from hands and feet to hands, feet, back (spine), legs,arms… is this normal for Raynauds? Could she have Scleroderma? She’s very thin and has told me will turn into a twig eventually. She really feels that way. She has learned to deal with the pain, especially first thing upon on waking up. She can’t open a door at first like a padlock, lids on jars, etc. Her oldest daughter, 5 yrs. old, will help her in the mornings with anything she needs for about a half an hour. Hot wax lasts less than 15 min. The only thing that she has found that has helped her is marijuana. She doesn’t want to have any legal problems. So far, Ohio will not pass any medical marijuana for people with chronic, severe pain. She cannot use a deadbolt for when her husband is at work at night. She cannot put the deadbolt on and if it’s locked that way, she’s scared that if they had a fire, she cannot unlock the door. She and the girls could burn up. Do any of her symptoms sound more like scleroderma? She has no insurance at this time so she has not returned to a rhumatologist.

  22. My daughter was dianosed with progressive systemic scleroderma when she was 3. Now at 25 she is having problems finding a doctor who has a clue what to do. Any one out there have a good rhymatoligist. She is in alot of pain and loosing use of a hand. Her lungs, hands, skin, and other internal problems due to the scleroderma.
    she was at childrens in seattle untill she was 18 now we are at a loss where to go. most docs we talk to are not helpfull or they ignore her pain.

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