The type of doctors and nurses you see will depend on your symptoms of scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis). Some specialise in specific symptoms, others look at the body as a whole.
There may be many people in your specialist team or you may generally see only one doctor who manages your scleroderma. This is a list of some of the types of healthcare professionals who might be involved in your care.
Specialises in the heart and blood vessels. They will look at any echocardiograms (ECG) or heart scans that you might have. They might also get involved if you have high blood pressure in your lungs (pulmonary arterial hypertension) or systemic high blood pressure (hypertension) that is related to your kidneys.
Specialises in the teeth and gums. The dentist might be the person you see if you have symptoms like dry mouth, mouth ulcers or pain in the jaw.
Specialises in skin conditions. They might be one of the first specialists you meet if you have obvious skin symptoms.
As with many chronic diseases, it’s important to look after yourself. It might be possible for you to visit a dietician for advice, especially if you are having problems with your digestive system or have a sensitive stomach.
Specialises in problems with the digestive system (mouth, stomach and gut). You might see this type of doctor if you experience symptoms in your digestive system that need investigating.
The general practitioner or family doctor might be your first point of call when new symptoms arise, or if you need information about medications.
Specialises in women’s reproductive organs. You might see this type of doctor if you’re a woman having problems with your sexual health, such as vaginal dryness.
Specialises in your body’s defence system – the immune system. This can be for symptoms all over your body, but there might be a focus on your blood results, as these tell the doctor a lot about how active your immune system is and what it is fighting.
Internal medicine specialist
The internal medicine specialist is a general hospital specialist who treats all sorts of non-surgical conditions. They may act as your general doctor for your scleroderma, sending you to more specialist doctors such as pulmonologists depending on the symptoms you have.
These doctors are specialists in surgery involving the brain and nerves. Some people with scleroderma might visit these doctors about treatment for severe Raynaud’s phenomenon or where there are other problems with pain or movement. They might also investigate some symptoms you have to see if they are caused by scleroderma or something else.
Nurses can help you with a range of symptoms. They can be a valuable source of practical advice on day-to-day living, medications and health tips. They might also help arrange some of your treatments or tests.
The podiatrist looks after your foot health. You might not need to meet a podiatrist, but it’s good to know they are there.
The physiotherapist gives you exercises and tips to help you maintain mobility and independence. You might not need to meet a physiotherapist, but it’s good to know they are there.
Specialises in the lungs. They will be interested in monitoring what is going on in your lungs and might order scans and some other tests to check how your lungs are working.
Specialises in joints, muscles and connective tissue diseases. Because scleroderma is a disease of the connective tissue, you might spend a lot of time talking things over with a rheumatologist. They often have an interest in the immune system as well – your body’s defence system.
Specialises in the kidneys and bladder. They will be able to investigate any symptoms you have related to urinating, or your kidneys. Not everyone with scleroderma will need to see the urologist or nephrologist. Urologists may also specialise in men’s reproductive organs and sexual problems. You might see this sort of doctor for help with erectile dysfunction.
Whoever you see, it is important to let them know what has changed since your last appointment:
- Changes in how active you are able to be
- Changes in symptoms
- The effects of any medications you have been taking
- Changes in your lifestyle
The symptoms can be so varied. And they can impact people in so many different ways. Scleroderma is just one of those diseases that really makes medical professionals come together as a team. Everyone has a role and puts their best foot forward.
Nurse who helps people with scleroderma