Every year, June 29 is observed as “World Scleroderma Day (WSD)” all across the world. Sponsored by the Federation of European Scleroderma Associations (FESCA), the campaign aims to recognize the courage of those people who live with scleroderma, and to demand equal treatment and care for people with scleroderma. The Federation of European Scleroderma Associations (FESCA) is an umbrella support and advocacy organization comprising 25 scleroderma associations located within 22 European (EU) countries. Also called systemic sclerosis (SS), scleroderma is a chronic, autoimmune disease affecting the skin and other organs of the body, which means that the body’s immune system is causing inflammation and other abnormalities in the tissues. It involves the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. There are different types of scleroderma affecting different parts of the body. In some people, the condition affects only the skin, whereas in others it harms structures beyond the skin like blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract. Signs and symptoms vary, depending on which type of scleroderma a person suffers from. If left untreated, it can cause severe complications. A combination of treatment modalities can ease the symptoms and improve the quality of the patient’s life. Physicians diagnosing and treating scleroderma patients can utilize the services of reliable medical billing and coding companies to get the correct medical codes reported on their medical claims for accurate reimbursement.

Scleroderma affects 2.5 million people worldwide. It is estimated that about 75,000 to 100,000 people in the United States are affected by scleroderma. The condition commonly affects people in the age group of 30 to 50 years and more often affects women than men. Twins and family members of those with scleroderma or other autoimmune connective tissue diseases, such as lupus, may have a slightly higher risk of getting scleroderma. Children can also develop scleroderma, but the disease is slightly different in children when compared to that in adults. The global campaign is a perfect platform to create awareness about this chronic, auto-immune disease – its causes, symptoms and the need to undergo regular diagnosis and other prevention measures.

The primary goal behind this worldwide campaign is to help people with the symptoms, find the resources they need, and help friends and family and support others who are suffering from this chronic, auto-immune disease. It also aims to raise funds and awareness for the three-fold mission of support, education and research for scleroderma. Generally, scleroderma occurs due to an overproduction and accumulation of collagen in the body tissues. Physicians don’t know exactly what causes the abnormal collagen production, but it occurs due to a combination of factors like immune system problems, genetics and environmental triggers. The signs and symptoms of the condition vary, depending on the specific part of the body. In the early stages, SS may only affect the skin. The skin may get thickened and shiny areas develop around the mouth, nose, fingers and other bony parts. However as the condition progresses, patients may begin to experience limited movement of the affected areas. Some of the common symptoms include – shortness of breath, pain in the joints, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating after meals, small, dilated blood vessels under the skin’s surface, calcium deposits, or white lumps under the skin, esophageal reflux and hair loss.

Diagnosis of SS begins with a physical examination to identify skin changes that are symptomatic of SS. Physicians may also perform blood tests like antibody testing, rheumatoid factor, and sedimentation rate. Other diagnostic tests include – skin biopsies, chest X-ray, urinalysis and CT scan of the lungs. There is no specific treatment that can fully cure the condition. However, administering certain treatment modalities can help reduce certain symptoms, slow the progression of the disease and prevent certain complications. Treatment for generalized symptoms include – corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, light therapy and nitroglycerin ointment to treat localized areas of tightening of the skin. In addition, incorporating key lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, remaining physically active, and avoiding foods that trigger heartburn could help.

Pulmonologists, dermatologists, nephrologists and other specialists treating scleroderma patients must correctly document the symptoms, screening tests and treatment procedures using the right medical codes. Medical billing and coding services include assigning the right ICD-10 codes for specific disease conditions. ICD-10 codes for coding different types of 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 first World Scleroderma Day was inaugurated in Europe on June 29, 2009. In February 2010, the first Systemic Sclerosis World Congress was held in Florence, Italy, where it was officially decided that June 29 would be recognized as World Scleroderma Day. The prime reason why June 29th was chosen for the observance is because on this day in 1940, internationally renowned Swiss painter Paul Klee died. Paul Klee is probably the most internationally renowned celebrity to have had scleroderma. Paul Klee’s artwork was widely influenced by his experience with this chronic condition. The work that was completed during his last years had very visual interpretations of his personal experiences and symptoms as a man with the scleroderma.

As part of the campaign, a series of events will take place in major European cities and throughout the world to raise awareness and spread the word. FESCA has created a poster as part of the event. Supporters can download and display or share the poster via their social media pages to spread awareness of this chronic and little-known condition. Government organizations, affected communities, healthcare providers, and national/international partners will join together to participate in this campaign and create awareness about this autoimmune disease worldwide.

Join the fight against this chronic, autoimmune disease on June 29.