For this interview segment, Dr. Arkin discussed the biggest points she hopes dermatologists will take away from National Scleroderma Awareness Month this year.
In this HCPLive interview segment, Lisa Arkin, MD, described the importance of raising awareness of the disease known as scleroderma, noting a lack of treatments and that the disease predominantly affects women.
A pediatric dermatologist, Arkin is also a member of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health / American Family Children's Hospital.
“It may be rare, but it's an incredibly disabling disorder, particularly, you know, in terms of quality of life, but also function,” she explained. “On the systemic scleroderma side, you know, it really has significant morbidity and even mortality from lung disease.”
Arkin added that dermatologists need better treatments for this condition and that they need to derive therapeutics from a more advanced understanding of immunology.
“It is like most autoimmune disorders, as it's a disease that predominantly affects women,” she explained. “And so if you're seeing patients who have what looks like thickening of the skin, or puffy hands with symptoms of pain or color changes in the winter, it's definitely something to keep on your radar because early diagnosis of the systemic form is really critical to improving outcomes.”
She noted as well that shiny white patches or plaques are the key signs of localized scleroderma, which she says should be noted by dermatologists as early as possible.
“We have really excellent therapeutics, but they work best when they're started early,” Arkin noted. “And the reason for that is when the disease is active, that's when you can shut it down. But there's often damage that accrues and so the earlier we make this diagnosis, the better the outcomes.”
Arkin added that environmental triggers can lead to more outbreaks and that viral infections may be included in this list. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted that there may be an abundance of persistent circulating viral infection.
The doctor also noted the fact that the disease is not contagious, and that dermatologists should help patients to understand this so they may get peace of mind.
“It's nothing that people can give to other folks,” Arkin stated. “And so we want patients to know this is not an infectious problem.”
To find out more about scleroderma, view the interview video posted above.
The quotes contained in this synopsis were edited for clarity.