Scleroderma is a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) risk due to excess collagen in the esophagus. Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) is a condition involving a group of diseases that result in the hardening of the skin and connective tissues. Typically scleroderma affects just the skin, but in some individuals it can also affect structures of the body like blood vessels, causing them to harden.
Scleroderma is considered an autoimmune disease and the body produces excess amounts of collagen. When collagen deposits itself it leads to hardening of the skin and other organs.
Scleroderma typically affects women more than men, and there is currently no cure for the disease. However, treatments are available to help ease symptoms and improve daily life.
Scleroderma and GERD
Excess collagen produced by scleroderma can find its way to the throat and the stomach. When this happens it interferes with the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. When acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus it contributes to GERD.
In patients with scleroderma, symptoms of GERD can be far more severe and if left untreated, damage can occur to the esophagus.
When we consume food it goes down the esophagus into the stomach. In patients with scleroderma the esophagus becomes hardened due to excess collagen, which prevents the muscles in the esophagus from contracting and moving food downward. There are medications available to help assist food down into the stomach.
Symptoms of GERD
- Heartburn sensation
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry cough
- Hoarseness or sore throat
- Regurgitation of food or liquids – acid reflux
- Sensation of having a lump in the throat
Treating gastroesophageal reflux disease in scleroderma patients
As mentioned, there are medications that help food enter the stomach instead of sticking around the esophagus, thus contributing to unpleasant symptoms associated with GERD. Anti-reflux medication is commonly used to relieve the burning sensation and prevent food and liquid from being regurgitated.
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals
- Not eating prior to bed
- Not lying down soon after eating – staying in an upright position for a few hours
- Keeping your head slightly elevated in bed
- Avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol and other foods that increase symptoms of GERD
Home remedies for scleroderma
There is no cure for scleroderma, but there are at-home remedies that can offer relief from the disease. Home remedies for scleroderma include:
- Exercising regularly, which improves circulation and keeps your body flexible
- Not smoking as nicotine constricts blood vessels
- Managing heartburn (see above)
- Protecting yourself from the cold and staying warm