Diagnosing & Treating Sclerodactyly of the Hand (Part 1)
If one notices their fingers have begun to curl inward, the care of a hand specialist may be required. The claw-like appearance of their inward-curling fingers is the hallmark of sclerodactyly, a condition that causes the skin of the hand to become hard and rigid. Sclerodactyly is itself caused by a condition known either as systemic scleroderma, or as systemic sclerosis.
Systemic scleroderma frequently manifests in the hands and causes the skin of the affected area to become tight and hard. However, not everyone suffering from scleroderma symptoms in the hands will require the care of a hand specialist, since not all cases of the condition lead to sclerodactyly.
It is actually a rare form of arthritis – with fewer than a half million people in the United States affected by the condition.
In this article board certified Oakland County hand specialist Dr. Uzma Rehman discusses the symptoms, causes and treatment of Sclerodactyly.
Symptoms of Sclerodactyly of the Hand
When the condition processes in the hands, scleroderma can cause the patient’s fingers to be come swollen to the point of being incapable of bending. This may be accompanied by the thickening and hardening of the skin.
Extreme sensitivity to cold in the fingers or toes is can be an early sign of scleroderma. Scleroderma patients of Oakland County hand specialist Dr. Rehman also frequently reporting feelings of pain or numbness in their fingers, which may occasionally result from intense emotional stress.
The fingers and toes may take on a swollen, puffy appearance as scleroderma progresses. The initial stage of scleroderma may manifest intermittently, with hand specialist Dr. Rehman having treated patients for whom it has lasted weeks, months, or years.
Over time, scleroderma may cause the skin of the hands to become so hard or tight that it becomes impossible to pinch. Many patients of hand specialist Dr. Rehman report experiencing the worst of their symptoms during the morning hours.
While not a guarantee of the condition it is not uncommon for scleroderma patients to develop sclerodactyly, which causes their fingers to curl inward as a result of their hardened skin. Sclerodactyly causes the skin’s collagen fibers to stiffen to the point of being completely immobile, forcing the hand to take on a claw-like shape. For this reason, the earliest signs of sclerodactyly should be met with care from a hand specialist.
Causes of Sclerodactyly of the Hand
Autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, occur when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissue after mistaking it for a foreign body. Since scleroderma is a form of arthritis, this makes it an autoimmune disease.
The immune system’s mistaken attack is responded to by the body’s cells by overproduction of collagen, the protein responsible for keeping skin firm, supple, and healthy. Too much collagen, however, causes the hard and leathery skin characteristic of sclerodactyly, and leads many of Oakland County hand specialist Dr. Rehman’s patients to her care.
Within the hand specialist community, evidence has been observed to suggest scleroderma -which causes sclerodactyly- may be the product of hereditary. Cases of scleroderma have also be observed to have been triggered by exposure to certain pesticides, solvents, or epoxy resins.
It is extremely important to see a hand specialist for treatment of Sclerodactyly in the initial, early stages before the hands have hardened.
Although there is still no cure for Sclerodactyly, innovative treatments and therapies have improved the prognosis substantially in the last few years.
However, it is extremely important to see Oakland County hand specialist Dr. Rehman as early as possible – for a correct diagnosis and proper treatment – before the claw-like condition sets in. She can diagnose the underlying cause of your Sclerodactyly – and then and create a treatment and physical therapy plan to help relieve symptoms, restore hand function, and avoid progression of the condition.