Systemic and Localized Scleroderma in Children
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- Rosenkranz, M.E., Agle, L.M.A., Efthimiou, P. et al. Pediatr-Drugs (2006) 8: 85. doi:10.2165/00148581-200608020-00002
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Scleroderma is a group of rare and complex diseases with varied clinical manifestations. The most obvious manifestation of the diseases is skin hardening and sclerosis. Scleroderma can be divided into two main subgroups: systemic and localized. The systemic form, also known as systemic sclerosis, involves diffuse skin involvement and potentially severe visceral involvement. Localized scleroderma on the other hand is more common in children and usually confined to a specific region of the body with no internal organ involvement. The juvenile forms of systemic sclerosis and localized scleroderma are important conditions in children because of the clinical severity and substantial mortality of systemic scleroderma and the major growth defects associated with childhood-onset localized disease even if the active disease itself is self-limited. The pathogenic pathways of the various forms of scleroderma are only partially defined, but the main defect in scleroderma is abnormal collagen deposition leading to eventual fibrosis in the skin as well as multiple organ systems such as the heart and lungs in juvenile systemic sclerosis.
Therapeutics are divided into three main subgroups for systemic sclerosis: antifibrotics, anti-inflammatories, and vasodilators. For localized disease, anti-inflammatories, vitamin D analogs, and UV irradiation have been investigated. However, the infrequency of scleroderma in the pediatric population plus the fact that this disease is very often self-limiting makes randomized controlled trials very difficult. It is for this reason that most data on treatment modalities for this disease have been extrapolated from studies in adult patients. There is no one therapy for systemic sclerosis or localized scleroderma that has proven to be very effective or significantly disease modifying. However, current therapeutic strategies must be initiated early in the disease course for maximum beneficial clinical effects. New interventions such as autologous stem cell transplant and cytokine-directed therapies are under investigation as potential treatments for this complex disease.