Improving Approaches to Treating Scleroderma

According to a story from MD Magazine, the field of scleroderma treatment has seen some recent developments that could have major implications for how patients manage their disease. The latest update to draw attention was a study that was recently presented at the this year’s meeting of the American Thoracic Society. This study demonstrated that the drug nintedanib, which is commonly used to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is also effective for interstitial lung disease associated with scleroderma.

About Scleroderma

Scleroderma, which is also referred to as systemic sclerosis, describes a group of autoimmune diseases that can cause system-wide effects in the most severe cases. The mechanism of this disease is believed to be an autoimmune response in which the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue. Some factors that may contribute to triggering the autoimmune response include mutations of the HLA genes and exposure to certain materials, such as certain solvents, white spirits, ketones, and silica. Symptoms are broad ranging and systemic, including kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, stroke, headaches, facial pain, congestive heart failure, skin abnormalities, high blood pressure, chest pain, indigestion, and many more. Treatments are varied and depend on the symptoms, but most patients take medications in an attempt to suppress the autoimmune response. In severe cases, life expectancy is around 11 years from onset. To learn more about scleroderma, click here.

Treating Interstitial Lung Disease in Scleroderma

These findings could be a significant breakthrough for the treatment of scleroderma, as interstitial lung disease is a serious complication that can have a major negative impact on quality of life for patients and is a leading cause of death. The study utilized a measure called forced vital capacity in order to measure changes in lung function. Dr. Kristin Highland recently sat for an interview with MD Magazine to discuss these latest developments and the utility of forced vital capacity to measure lung function.

She says that many patients first visit their rheumatologist complaining of other symptoms and lung problems may initially be more subtle, particularly if the patient isn’t trying to exercise regularly. Forced vital capacity is a useful metric because it corresponds to CT scan readings and patient survival. Dr. Highland also says that data from an ongoing continuation study that resulted from the presented findings, as well as data from patient registries, will be critical for informing scleroderma-associated lung disease treatment going forward.


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