Acid production is a normal part of digestion in the stomach. Stomach acid abnormally traveling up into and irritating the esophagus is acid reflux. Heartburn refers to the painful burning sensation in the center of the chest caused by acid reflux.
An antacid is an agent that neutralizes excess stomach acid. Antacids may come in liquid or tablet form and act immediately in the stomach. Long-acting antacid medications can be taken regularly and absorbed into the blood to suppress acid production.
An antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial substance used to treat infections. Each antibiotic kills or inhibits the growth of specific microorganisms. Thus, antibiotics are prescribed based on the type of infection present.
Biofeedback is a technique for regulating a body function that is usually involuntarily controlled (ex. finger temperature or pulse rate). A person can practice relaxation techniques and learn to control the function by observing a machine that monitors the function. Later, the machine becomes unnecessary. However, the benefits of this technique have not been proved.
A biopsy is a medical test commonly performed by surgeons, interventional radiologists, or interventional cardiologists. A sample of tissue, cells, or fluids is removed and examined to determine the presence or extent of a disease.
Connective tissue pervades, supports, and binds together other tissues, including mucous, fibrous, reticular, adipose, cartilage, skin, and bone. Connective tissue diseases are a group of disease that involve similar cellular changes; the specific disease is determined by the location at which the changes occur. Some examples are scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
CREST is an acronym for what is now known as limited cutaneous systemic scleroderma. The initials stand for Calcinosis, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, Esophageal dysfunction/dysmotility, Sclerodactyly, and Telangiectasia.
The esophagus connects the mouth to the stomach. The muscular tube, when properly functioning, contracts in smooth waves to move food to the stomach. A sphincter (ring-like muscle) at the lower esophagus opens to allow food to enter the stomach. Afterwards, the sphincter promptly closes to prevent stomach acid or partially digested food from entering the esophagus. Esophagitis is the inflammation or irritation of the esophagus.
The gastrointestinal tract is the digestive system. It breaks down food, allows absorption of nutrients, removal of cellular waste products, and elimination of solid waste from the body. Beginning with the mouth and esophagus, the gastrointestinal tract leads to the stomach, then the small intestine. The small intestine consists of the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Lastly, the large intestine, also known as the colon, leads to the rectum. The term “bowel” refers to the intestine. The anal sphincter is a muscle that controls discharge of stool. Diarrhea refers to the abnormally frequent or excessive passing of stool, typically in a watery state. Constipation refers to the abnormally infrequent or delayed passage of stool, typically in a dry and hardened state. Normal bowel movements vary with diet and from person to person.
The immune system is the system of organs, cells, and proteins and produces immune responses, protecting the body from foreign substances. Organs include the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow. Cells include white cells, lymphocytes, T cells, and B cells. Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are proteins that react with and/or neutralize corresponding proteins called antigens. Usually, the antigens are damaged or foreign material. The immune system protects and helps the body, but can be the cause of disease/allergy if it attacks parts of the normal body in a process known as autoimmunity.
Characterized by redness, heat, pain, swelling, and often loss of function, inflammation is the tissue reaction to cell injury. Normally, inflammation is part of the natural healing process because capillary dilation and white blood cell infiltration help eliminate foreign substances and damaged tissue. However, further damage can result from excessive or inappropriate inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to counteract inflammation.
Joint contracture is the fixation of a joint in one position, preventing full range of motion. Scleroderma patients frequently experience joint contraction in the fingers, due to tightened and hardened skin around the joint. In flexion contractures, the fingers are fixed in a bent or flexed position.
Lubrications are substances that make a surface slippery or oily. This can be done either artificially through the application of lubricating fluids or naturally through the secretion of fluids by cells. One example of such a secretion is tears.
Gastrointestinal motility refers to the rhythmic waves of contractions of the digestive-tract muscles. This process propels the food forward, allowing absorption of nutrients and elimination of wastes (feces). Weakened or absent waves of contraction results in dysmotility (see “Dysmotility”).
Occupational therapy (OT), often designed to increase the ability to perform daily actions, involves using activity prescribed to promote recovery or rehabilitation. Such daily actions may include grooming and eating. The therapy often focuses on the hands and small muscle control.
Physical therapy is the treatment of disease or injury with mechanical means such as massage, water, light, regulated exercises, or electricity. Typically, physical therapy is used for joint motion, large muscle groups, and activities such as walking and aerobic and isometric exercise.
Also known as Raynaud’s Syndrome, Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a disorder characterized by recurring spasms of the small blood vessels upon exposure to cold or emotional stress. In a Raynaud’s attack, the affected area (typically the fingers or toes) turn white, blue, and then red as circulation abnormally overreacts to normal conditions. This condition was named after Dr. Maurice Raynaud, the French physician who first described it.
techniques, imagery, and medication. These stress-reducing procedures can also be used to help regulate body functions such as finger temperature and pulse rate. One such example is Biofeedback (see “Biofeedback”).
Sjögren’s Syndrome, characterized by decreased secretions, is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes dry eyes and a dry mouth. This disease, named after the Swedish physician who first described it, may occur alone or as a part of other autoimmune diseases (including scleroderma).