June is “National Scleroderma Awareness Month”, meant to highlight the gravity of the chronic autoimmune disease scleroderma, with no known cause or cure. Sponsored by the Scleroderma Foundation (a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the needs of the scleroderma community), the primary goal behind this campaign is to raise funds to support education and research. Scleroderma or systemic sclerosis refers to a range of disorders that involve hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. The condition mostly affects women than men and commonly occurs in those in the age group of 30-50 years. While there is no known cure for this connective tissue disorder, treatment modalities are available to help ease the symptoms and improve the quality of life to a great extent. If left untreated, the condition can lead to mild or even severe complications and can affect your teeth, digestive system, fingertips, lungs, kidneys, heart and sexual function. For correct clinical documentation of this autoimmune disorder, physicians can consider utilizing outsourced medical billing and coding services.

Reports suggest that the condition affects between 75,000 and 100,000 people (2017 statistics) in the United States. It is estimated that about 1 in 3 people with this condition develop severe symptoms of the disease. Sclerodermas are of different types. In some people, the condition affects only the skin. But in others, it also harms structures beyond the skin, such as blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract (systemic scleroderma). Signs and symptoms vary, depending on which type of scleroderma you have. Early symptoms include changes in the fingers and hands, such as stiffness, tightness, and puffiness because of sensitivity to cold or emotional stress. There may be swelling in the hands and feet, especially in the morning. Other related symptoms include – calcium deposits in connective tissues, red spots on the face and hands, tight, thickened skin on the fingers, problems of the esophagus and narrowing of the blood vessels to the hands and feet (known as Raynaud’s disease).

The June 2019 campaign aims to spread awareness about the common causes and risk factors associated with the condition and educate people on how to provide the right support to those affected. Scleroderma results from an overproduction and accumulation of collagen (a fibrous type of protein) in body tissues. In most cases, a combination of factors including immune system problems, genetics and environmental triggers are expected to increase the potential risk of the condition.

Diagnosing scleroderma is often difficult as it can take many forms and affect different areas of the body. A thorough physical exam along with blood tests will be done to check the elevated levels of certain antibodies produced by the immune system. A small sample of the affected skin will be taken to examine in the laboratory. In addition, imaging or organ-function tests help determine whether your digestive system, heart or lungs are affected.  In most cases, the skin problems associated with the condition may fade away on their own in two to five years. However, the type of scleroderma that affects internal organs usually worsens with time. Treatment modalities for this condition include medications and therapies. But a variety of medications such as steroid creams, blood pressure medications, antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers can help control scleroderma symptoms and prevent complications. Therapies include physical therapy or occupational therapy. Surgical options will be used as a last resort and these include amputation and lung transplants. The diagnosis and treatment procedures performed for this condition may need to be carefully documented using the correct medical codes. Medical coding services offered by reliable medical billing companies can help physicians use the correct codes for their billing purposes. ICD-10-CM codes for diagnosing Scleroderma include –

  • M34 – Systemic sclerosis [scleroderma]
  • M34.0 – Progressive systemic sclerosis
  • M34.1 – CR (E) ST syndrome
  • M34.2 – Systemic sclerosis induced by drug and chemical
  • M34.8 – Other forms of systemic sclerosis
  • M34.81 – Systemic sclerosis with lung involvement
  • M34.82 – Systemic sclerosis with myopathy
  • M34.83 – Systemic sclerosis with polyneuropathy
  • M34.89 – Other systemic sclerosis
  • M34.9 – Systemic sclerosis, unspecified

The Scleroderma Foundation conducts nationwide support activities that offer numerous opportunities for people to learn about the symptoms of the condition. These include educational programs (to learn more about the disease), networking with others (who are living with scleroderma), support patient education programs and fundraising activities for research. Teal custom awareness ribbons and wristbands are worn by people as an iconic symbol of hope for warriors and survivors around the world.

In the month of June, the Scleroderma Foundation and the Scleroderma Research Foundation will collaborate and work together to raise awareness with the campaign “Hard word. Harder disease.” The campaign theme touches on the difficulty of the word and the gravity of scleroderma, a rare disease with no known cause or cure. It will run across several social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (#hardword) throughout the month of June, with visuals and copy that educate and challenge people to take a pledge to tell one person about the disease. The campaign activities will culminate on the World Scleroderma Day observed on June 29 – wherein the message will be to encourage people to learn about scleroderma and tell others about the disease.

Observe Scleroderma Awareness Month in June! Promote public awareness about this autoimmune disorder and fund medical research to help people live longer, fuller lives.