Scleroderma a is a rare autoimmune disease characterized by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. This fibrosis affects a range of organs including the mouth, vocal cords and larynx. When these areas are affected, a number of communication and swallowing difficulties can occur.
A patient with scleroderma will experience a hardening of tissue caused by an overproduction of collagen, a protein produced by the connective tissue cells of the skin. When collagen occurs in excess, it can cause stiffness and scarring of the skin and internal organs. When this process occurs in the vocal folds, the patient will experience hoarseness and other vocal issues. The muscles that control the vocal folds can also become inflamed, resulting in less control and reduced vocal quality. Patients who experience these symptoms are often referred to one of our speech-language pathologists who can help improve the patient’s vocal quality and projection.
Scleroderma can also cause swallowing disorders. The salivary glands of the mouth often become scarred, leaving the patient unable to produce saliva properly. As a result, the patient may experience severe dry mouth which causes difficulties in swallowing. One of our speech-language pathologists who specialize in the treatment of swallowing disorders can help pinpoint the exact type of swallowing issues the patient is having, as well as recommend food textures and swallowing techniques that may assist the patient.
For more information on this disorder, visit the Scleroderma Foundation at http://www.scleroderma.org/Leave a reply