Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can take a number of steps to help manage your symptoms of scleroderma:

  • Stay active. Exercise keeps your body flexible, improves circulation and relieves stiffness. Range-of-motion exercises can help keep your skin and joints flexible.
  • Don't smoke. Nicotine causes blood vessels to contract, making Raynaud's disease worse. Smoking can also cause permanent narrowing of your blood vessels. Quitting smoking is difficult — ask your doctor for help.
  • Manage heartburn. Avoid foods that give you heartburn or gas. Also avoid late-night meals. Elevate the head of your bed to keep stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus (reflux) as you sleep. Antacids may help relieve symptoms.
  • Protect yourself from the cold. Wear warm mittens for protection anytime your hands are exposed to cold — even when you reach into a freezer. When you're outside in the cold, cover your face and head and wear layers of warm clothing.

Coping and support

As is true with other chronic diseases, living with scleroderma can place you on a roller coaster of emotions. Here are some suggestions to help you even out the ups and downs:

  • Maintain normal daily activities as best you can.
  • Pace yourself and be sure to get the rest that you need.
  • Stay connected with friends and family.
  • Continue to pursue hobbies that you enjoy and are able to do.

Keep in mind that your physical health can have a direct impact on your mental health. Denial, anger and frustration are common with chronic illnesses.

At times, you may need additional tools to deal with your emotions. Professionals, such as therapists or behavior psychologists, may be able to help you put things in perspective. They can also help you develop coping skills, including relaxation techniques.

Joining a support group, where you can share experiences and feelings with other people, is often a good approach. Ask your doctor what support groups are available in your community.