Approximately 300,000 people in the United States have scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disease of the connective tissue that causes the body to produce an excess of collagen, resulting in abnormal thickening and hardening of the skin. The skin can become so tight it restricts movement. Other common symptoms include
Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is hypersensitivity to cold temperatures or emotional distress that results in numbness, pain, or color changes in the fingers or toes
Gasroesophageal reflux disease, which can not only damage the esophagus but also cause problems with absorption of nutrients
Scleroderma can also affect the organs. If the lungs are scarred (pulmonary fibrosi), it can reduce the ability to breathe. If the disease impacts the kidneys, high blood pressure and even kidney failure may result. Scarring of heart tissue can lead to abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias), congestive heart failure, and inflammation of the pericardium (pericarditis).
Vitamin E: Research indicates that oxidative stress worsens scleroderma, thus antioxidants may be beneficial. Vitamin E may inhibit the autoimmune response as well as improve the skin and calcinosis (calcium deposits under the skin). Doses ranging from 200 to 1,200 IU daily have reportedly improved skin-related symptoms of the disease. Vitamin E is also beneficial when it is applied topically.
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid): Treatment with potassium PABA (KPAB) can result in softer and thinner skin and thus also increase range of motion. In one study of 104 patients, 93.3 percent had moderate to considerable improvement of their skin condition when taking 12 g of KPAB daily. Some patients had complete remission, and they discontinued treatment for up to 8.5 years without return of symptoms. Most of the patients, however, had to continue therapy indefinitely.
In another study, 390 patients received 12 to 12.5 g daily of KPAB for three months to 20.6 years. Treated patients had significantly less decline in pulmonary function and longer survival rates than patients who had not been treated.
Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA): A good source of GLA is evening primrose oil, which increases capillary blood flow and reduces inflammation. A suggested dose is 540 mg daily.
Bromelain: This enzyme is helpful for some patients. The recommended dose is 160 mg daily.
Copper and zinc: Some people with scleroderma have deficiencies of these two minerals, in which case supplementation has proven to be helpful. Suggested doses are 30 mg of zinc and 1 to 2 mg of copper daily.
Avocado or soybean extract: These two extracts are rich sources of vitamin E and can be used along with or in place of vitamin E supplementation. Suggested dose is 300 to 600 mg daily.