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What Is the Relationship Between Scleroderma and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease which attacks the skin and tissues and is classified as a type of degenerative arthritis. The connection between scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis is that they are both diseases which attack connective tissues and involve pain, swelling and immune system responses. The autoimmune disease scleroderma includes hardening of the skin and various points of inflammation inside and outside of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis, in comparison, involves inflammation as well, but includes pain in the joints and connective tissues rather than being spread to the skin.

When finding the relationship between scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis, it is important to compare the differences of the diseases. Scleroderma is a less common form of arthritis, even less common than rheumatoid arthritis, and involves skin hardening and random swelling and scarring of the skin. Scleroderma also involves blood vessel disease due to chronic inflammation within the blood vessels. There is no known cause of scleroderma, which makes it a difficult disease to cure, but it is usually treated the same way as rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, includes pain and swelling of the joints and connective tissues within the body. This autoimmune disease confuses the immune system, which then attacks healthy tissues. Inflammation happens in the synovial membrane of the joints, forming a mass called a pannus. As the most debilitating and painful form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can cause fatigue and muscle wasting, as well as changes in the lungs and eyes.

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The connections between scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis include the connective tissues and body areas in which they affect, as well as the ways in which the diseases are treated in a medical setting. Both scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis involve changes in the skin and blood vessels, and are always accompanied with inflammation in and on the body. There is currently no known cause to scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis, making them both difficult to cure, but their treatment is relatively the same. Both diseases are treated to reduce inflammation, as well as to promote healing of the connective tissues as much as possible.

Scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis may be treated with a combination of drugs and therapies. Many times, rheumatoid arthritis is treated with antibiotics and a combination of exercise and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce joint pain. Scleroderma may also be treated with these methods, but may also include drugs to suppress the overly active immune system. This form of treatment, however, may also increase diseases in various organs of the body, making it a controversial form of treatment.

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