This article is about two skin conditons which resemble each other, yet are different. Both conditions can turn into a life threatening situation, possibly death, again showing changes in skin appearance should not be ignored.
A systemic disease is a disease that affects multiple parts of the body, including vital organs. There is one disorder that is a systemic disease, which is Sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease which usually begins in the lung, and may eventually affect the other vital organs, including the brain, as well as the lymph glands, eyes, and skin. Abnormal masses, or nodules, called nonmalignant granulomas begin to form. Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease, resembles Sarcoidosis, primarily affects the skin, and other organs by thickening of the tissues, such as seen with scar tissue. Although both of these disorders have similarities, there are differences.
The skin, nose, eye areas form various types of lesions, in the case of Sacoidosis. Scleroderma manifests itself as itchy and painful areas, that are often red and accompanied by swelling. Scleroderma lesions are commonly found on fingers, neck, face, and feet. Although the various skin lesions of scleroderma and sarcodisis may resemble each other, those of scleroderma can result in death if the disease begins to affect internal organs. Another difference between the two is that sarcoidosis may disappear on its own, whereas scleroderma does not. A dermatologist should be sought out for a correct diagnosis.
Sarcoidosis will resolve itself in many cases, However, once it affects the vital organs, the condition can become more serious. Symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, aches, pain, swelling of the knee, shortness of breath and a dry cough, are indicative of other medical issues as well, such as cancer. As the granulomas increase in size or amount, the affects on internal organs will progressively worsen, which may lead to a life threatening situation. Corticosteroids are commonly used for sarcodosis that is affecting the skin. However, other drugs such as anti-rejection drugs (Trexall and Imuran) are used as anti-inflammatory agents. The most drastic treatment is that of lung or liver transplants in more complicated cases.
Scleroderma: Like Sarcoidosis, anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDS (Ibuprofen), corticosteroids
(Prednisone) will alleviate minor symptoms that are affecting the skin. Anti-fibrotic agents are commonly used to stop the excess production of collagen.
Both diseases affect the internal organs, which may result in a life threatening situation. Intense drug therapy is used for both, which in turn may also create serious complications from their side-effects. Both of these diseases are mistaken with others, such as lupus, until extensive testing is done and a correct diagnosis is found. In both cases, a complete medical history along with x-rays, scans, EKG's, pulmonary function tests, and laboratory studies are used as diagnostic tools. In some cases, biopsies are obtained.
As with any illness or unusual change in skin, or overall health, immediate medical care should be sought. Shortness of breath may be a self-diagnosis for exertion, but when combined with enlarged lymph glands, weight loss, dry cough, which does not disappear, or accompanied by changes in the skin as seen with the nodules, itching and pain, medical attention should not be ignored.