The CREST syndrome is also known as limited scleroderma, which is a skin condition in which the skin of the person hardens. It is basically a less severe form of scleroderma. A person with CREST syndrome usually experiences skin changes in the lower parts of the legs and arm. It may also affect your face, neck, heart, kidneys, lungs, and digestive tract. The problems caused by CREST syndrome are not very significant unless it affects the heart or lungs.
What is scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a rare autoimmune condition in which the person’s immune system starts destroying the body’s healthy cells. Due to this the connective tissues that are present in skin, and internal organs such as lungs, heart, kidneys, digestive tract, etc, get replaced with scar tissues. Hence, the muscles become stiff and stop working.
Causes of CREST syndrome
The exact cause of CREST syndrome is still unknown, but it is considered to be an autoimmune disorder in which the healthy cells of your body are destroyed by your immune system. As a result, too much collagen starts to produce. Collagen is basically responsible for binding in the connective tissues. The excessive production of collagen results in the thickening of the skin and internal organs due to which they have problems in functioning. The following factors may increase your risk of developing CREST syndrome:
Women are more likely to develop limited scleroderma as compared to men.
Black people are more likely to develop CREST syndrome than white people.
Middle-aged people have a higher risk to develop CREST syndrome.
Long term exposure to chemicals
Exposure to chemicals or toxins for a longer period of time can trigger limited scleroderma in people.
Symptoms of CREST syndrome
The symptoms of CREST syndrome or limited scleroderma usually take up to a few months to appear. It is characterized by the following symptoms:
Calcinosis is a condition in which calcium deposits under your skin. The lumps of calcium can form in your fingers, elbows, knees, and other body parts and can be painful. These calcium deposits may get infected.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which the blood vessels of fingers and toes are triggered by cold, emotional stress, or illness. It is usually caused by a blockage in the flow of blood. Raynaud’s phenomenon results in cold, numb, or painful fingers. In severe cases, the fingers and toes may become gangrenous. Usually, the skin of people with CREST syndrome turns white before becoming blue and numb. When circulation improves, the skin usually reddens and might throb or tingle. In most cases, Raynaud’s phenomena are the first and foremost symptom of limited scleroderma, but this doesn’t mean that everyone who has Raynaud’s also has limited scleroderma.
People suffering from CREST syndrome often experience problems when swallowing something. This is caused by scarring in the oesophagus, which is the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. The malfunctioning of muscles present in the oesophagus makes the process of swallowing as well a s digesting difficult as it allows the stomach to cause acid reflux, which in turn may cause heartburn.
Sclerodactyly is a condition that is marked by the tightening and thickening of the skin on fingers and toes. It can also affect other body parts including the face, neck, lower arms and legs, etc. your skin may appear shiny as it gets stretched over a bone. This may make movement very difficult, and sometimes painful.
Telangiectasias are also known as spider veins by people. In this condition, the blood vessels widen or get inflamed. It is marked by the formation of red spots on the skin often in the hands, palms, forearms, face, lips, etc. Telangiectasias is not painful.
Complications of CREST syndrome
If CREST syndrome is not taken care of properly, it may cause serious complications beneath the skin such as:
Problems in digesting food such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
Difficulty in swallowing
Weight loss or malnutrition
Ulcers on fingers and toes that may lead to breakage
Difficulty in breathing due to lung damage
Increased blood pressure
Difficulty to open mouth
Loss of teeth
Dryness in mouth
Diagnosis of CREST syndrome
The diagnosis of CREST syndrome usually requires a kidney specialist or a skin specialist. It is not because the condition is contagious or it spreads, but the fact that it can create problems if not managed well can become a problem.
Treatment of CREST syndrome
There is no permanent cure for CREST syndrome yet that is known. The treatment that is given to its patient usually focuses on managing its symptoms, preventing them from getting worse and improving the quality of the patient’s life.
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has been seen to improve the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, including CREST syndrome or limited scleroderma in people. It is better than the other medications as it is not steroid-based, and it does not have side effects. It can help to manage pain and inflammation caused due to CREST syndrome.
LDN is available in all forms at the harbor compounding pharmacy. For more information regarding the drug, you may visit their website.