CREST syndrome is a subtype of Scleroderma (hardening of the skin). With CREST syndrome, skin changes happen in the lower arms and legs. In some cases, it may occur on the face and throat. This condition has also been known to affect the GI tract in some patients.
While problems with CREST syndrome may be on the mild side, in rare cases, the disease can damage the heart and lungs, causing life-threatening results.
CREST syndrome is considered an autoimmune disorder, due to the fact that the immune system causes an overproduction of too much collagen. This can build up on the skin, and in some cases, internal organs, causing a disruption in normal functioning.
What are the risk factors of CREST Syndrome?
Women are more likely to have this condition than men. This condition is said to affect people of color more often than Caucasians. Individuals with a family history of autoimmune disorders, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, or Hashimoto's disease, are at an increased risk for CREST syndrome.
What are the symptoms of CREST syndrome?
Individuals who have at least two of the following symptoms may have this form of Scleroderma:
How is CREST syndrome diagnosed?
CREST syndrome is a complex autoimmune disorder, and can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and family history. From there, your doctor may order blood tests and a skin biopsy in order to definitively diagnose you.
In some cases, your doctor may order tests to look at your GI tract, lungs, and heart, in order to spot any complications from the disease.
How is CREST syndrome treated?
While there is no known cure for CREST syndrome, there are several different ways that the symptoms can be treated.
These treatments include:
Your doctor may order various types of therapy to help you maintain strength and flexibility.
Some of these therapies include:
In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.
Just like with Scleroderma, CREST causes physical changes that can affect your self-esteem. If you find yourself suffering from some depression because of this disease, please seek help from a counselor. Talking to a counselor is not shameful at all. They can help you come to terms with your illness and provide you coping techniques to help you get through your day. Also, look into support groups. In support groups, you can meet others who are suffering from similar issues. Support groups help you feel less alone.