Ever wonder why your Rheumy gets so aggressive with using medications that suppress your immune system? Well, each of these conditions can affect a multitude of organs in our body, not just our joints.

Below is a list of some issues that we don’t always think about that can be seen in each of these conditions.


Episcleritis (red eye – not painful – no need for urgent treatment)
Scleritis (red eye – very painful – needs urgent treatment)
Pleurisy (inflammation of tissue lining of lung – sharp pain when breathing)
Pleural effusions (fluid between the lining of lung and lung itself)
Pulmonary nodules
Interstitial Pulmonary (lung) Fibrosis (hardening of lungs)
Bronchiolitis Obliterans
Nonspecific Interstitial Pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue)
Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue lining the heart)
Myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle -which can lead to heart failure)


Pleuritis / Pleurisy
Kidney disease
Peripheral Neuropathy (numbness, tingling of arms and legs)
Hemolytic Anemia (low blood count – low hemoglobin)
Leukopenia (low white blood cell count)
Thrombocytopenia (low platelets)
Acute Pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue)
Diffuse Alveolar Hemorrhage (bleeding in the lungs)
Increased risk of heart disease


Difficulty swallowing
Inability to speak continuously
Metallic / Salty / Bitter taste
Burning sensation in the mouth
Reflux or heartburn
Increased risk of oral thrush
Raynauds (fingers turning white, red, or bluish color when they get cold)
Thyroiditis (thyroid dysfunction)
Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes)
Pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue)
Restrictive Bronchiolitis
Renal (aka kidney) acidosis – kidneys fail to get rid of body acids in the urine. This can lead to kidney stones, bone disease, and chronic kidney disease)
Increased risk of Celiac Disease (ingesting gluten damages small intestines)
Optic Neuritis (inflammation of the optic – or eye – nerve which causes pain and temporary vision loss)
Peripheral Neuropathy (numbness and tingling of hands and feet)


For simplicity sake, think of Scleroderma as having two subsets: limited and diffuse

One form of the limited is known as CREST

In both limited and diffuse Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma), there are three primary issues to watch out for:

1. Interstitial Lung Disease (scarring of the lungs)
2. Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (pulmonary means lung)
Pulmonary Hypertension is elevated blood pressure of the arteries that supply the lungs and the right side of the heart
3. Renal (renal means kidney) crisis
Renal crisis is basically a quick onset of kidney failure caused by an abrupt increase of blood pressure (typically greater than 150/90)

Other Issues With Scleroderma:
Esophagus stricture (becomes narrowed or more closed and needs ‘stretched’)
Reflux or heartburn
Malabsorption of nutrients leading to an iron deficiency anemia

If you have been diagnosed with any of these, perhaps the underlying cause is an autoimmune rheumatic condition. Talk with your health care provider, perhaps there is something more to the story.

There are some things we can control and some things we can’t. All the more reason to choose to live our value one choice at a time.