Nitroglycerin is a quick acting nitrate and is used as an ointment (Nitro-Bid, Nitrol, Nitrong, Nitrostat) to treat hardened skin. Before applying it, remove any ointment that remains from the previous application.
UVA-1 Phototherapy. Phototherapy (light therapy) is now considered by some experts to be the treatment of choice for local scleroderma. Specifically, doctors favor an approach called ultraviolet A-1 (UVA-1) radiation. This treatment produces long UVA wave lengths that do not cause sunburn and may actually repair DNA in damaged skin cells. The procedure is effective for all stages of morphea. It increases skin elasticity and in some cases, completely clears up symptoms.
UVA-1 phototherapy is quite expensive and requires a special light source not available everywhere. In addition, studies are reporting an increased risk with UVA radiation. Whether this applies to UVA-1 phototherapy is not yet clear. Nonetheless, phototherapy is still an effective and important treatment of scleroderma. It may prove to be even more beneficial when combined with certain medications, such as calcipotriene (Dovonex), a form of vitamin D3.
PUVA. An alternative phototherapy regimen called PUVA uses drugs called psoralens taken by mouth before UVA treatment. PUVA has been used for other skin diseases, including psoriasis. It may prove useful for patients with early-onset diffuse scleroderma This treatment is known to increase the risk for skin cancer.
Phototherapy with Psoralen Water Bath. Yet another procedure uses UVA light therapy after patients take a bath containing a solution of psoralen 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP). This treatment is safe and well tolerated, although benefits appear to be minor and occur only in a small subset of patients.
A form of vitamin D3, calcipotriene (Dovonex), appears to help block skin cell production. This vitamin is called calcipotriol in Europe. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and is being investigated as a rub-on treatment and oral treatment for local scleroderma. It may prove beneficial when combined with low-dose ultraviolet A1 phototherapy.
D-penicillamine is proving to be an effective agent for softening skin and reducing thickness. (Improvements in thickness with this drug have also been associated with improved survival.)
Methotrexate (Rheumatrex) is another commonly used drug, and may be even more effective than penicillamine.
Corticosteroids taken by mouth, such as prednisolone and prednisone, are also often used.
Pilocarpine (Salagen) has been approved for treating dry mouth in people with scleroderma and Sjögren syndrome. In one study, patients with Sjögren syndrome experienced increased salivation after the first dose. Patients reported improvement in speaking, sleeping, and swallowing food without drinking. Side effects of this drug include sweating, increased need to urinate, chills, and flushing.
Other Surgeries. Disabling deformity of the hand is a common feature of scleroderma. Various surgical procedures can relieve pain, prevent tissue loss, protect hand function, and improve the appearance of the hands.
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