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Scleroderma

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Scleroderma is a group of diseases caused by abnormal growth of connective tissue, which supports your skin and internal organs. The abnormal growth is caused by an overproduction of collagen, a protein that provides structure to your skin and connective tissue, including bones, cartilage, and fat. 

There are two main forms of the disease:

  • Localized scleroderma: affects the skin and sometimes the underlying muscles
  • Systemic scleroderma: affects the skin and tissues beneath, including muscles, blood vessels, and major organs

The symptoms of scleroderma will depend on the type and the area of the body that’s affected, though nearly everyone with the disease will have symptoms that affect the skin: 

  • Blood pressure: high blood pressure, caused by stiff or narrowed vessels, which can cause damage in the lung arteries (pulmonary hypertension) and the kidneys
  • Skin: patches of tight or hardened skin, which can vary in size and shape 
  • Digestive system: difficulty swallowing, acid reflux, and episodes of constipation alternating with diarrhea
  • Fingers and toes: Thickening or tightening of skin on the fingers and toes (sclerodactyly), and pain and numbness in the fingers and toes in response to cold or stress (Raynaud's phenomenon)
  • Heart: irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), heart failure, swelling of the heart lining (pericarditis), and fluid around the heart
  • Joints and muscles: stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints, and muscle swelling and weakness (primarily upper arms or thighs)

Rheumatologists at University of Miami Health System have advanced experience diagnosing and treating scleroderma, which can often be difficult to identify when symptoms are mild or absent. We design a customized treatment to relieve your symptoms and give you comprehensive care. With locations throughout South Florida, you can get personalized treatment that’s close to home.

Why Choose UHealth?

The latest treatments for scleroderma and other rheumatic diseases. Scleroderma is a rare condition, so it’s important to work with an experienced team. Our rheumatologists are also researchers, so you get care from specialists on the leading edge of scleroderma treatment.

Comprehensive care from a team of specialists. Scleroderma affects different areas of your body, so our rheumatologists work with doctors in a full range of medical specialties to address all the problems that can arise as a result of the disease. You get comprehensive, coordinated care from dermatologists, gastroenterologists, vascular specialists, pulmonologists (lung diseases), nephrologists (kidney diseases), cardiologists, and others as needed.

Specialized care to improve your quality of life. Your team will educate you about scleroderma and help you learn how to manage symptoms with a nutritious diet, exercise, proper skincare, and other healthy lifestyle habits. We make sure you have the support and resources you need to cope with scleroderma. You won’t face this alone.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Treatments

  • Immunosuppressive Medicines

    Doctors use a range of medicines to stop the immune system from attacking healthy tissues, including:

    • Corticosteroids: slow the body's immune response to relieve swelling and pain
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): suppress the immune system broadly to prevent swelling
    • Genetically engineered biologics: a newer type of DMARD that targets specific immune functions

    Some of the medicines can be taken orally, but others are given as an injection.

  • Physical and Occupational Therapies

    A physical therapist can help you improve muscle strength and flexibility with specially designed stretches and exercises. Your doctor may also send you to an occupational therapist, who can teach you easier ways of performing everyday tasks and introduce you to assistive devices — such as zipper pulls or buttoning aids — if your finger joints are affected.

  • Vascular Disease Medicines

    Medicines that improve blood circulation can improve blood flow to the skin and organs, preventing tissue damage. They can be used to treat blood vessel thickening or spasms (a sudden tightening that restricts blood flow), or prevent blood clots from forming in vessels. These medicines can also help prevent lung and kidney problems, and treat Raynaud’s phenomenon.


Tests

  • Blood Tests

    Doctors use a variety of blood tests to help diagnose scleroderma, including tests that look for swelling (erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein test) and antibodies (blood proteins) associated with the disease.

  • Skin Biopsy

    Your doctor may take a small sample of your skin tissue to confirm your diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.

  • Other Tests

    Your doctor may do other tests to check for problems in your organs. Examples include breathing tests (pulmonary function tests) or a CT scan of your lungs, or an ultrasound exam of your heart (echocardiogram).

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry First Health PPO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Seasons Hospice
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care