Type of disease: Rare conditions
CREST syndrome, also known as limited scleroderma, is a widespread connective tissue disease characterized by changes in the skin, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, and internal organs. The symptoms involved in CREST syndrome are associated with the generalized form of the disease systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). CREST is an acronym for the clinical features that are seen in a patient with this disease.
(C) – Calcinosis (KAL-sin-OH-sis): the formation of calcium deposits in the connective tissues, which can be detected by X ray. They are typically found on the fingers, hands, face, trunk, and on the skin above the elbows and knees. When the deposits break through the skin, painful ulcers can result.
(R) – Raynaud’s (ray-NOHZ) phenomenon: a condition in which the small blood vessels of the hands and/or feet contract in response to cold or anxiety. As the vessels contract, the hands or feet turn white and cold, then blue. As blood flow returns, they become red. Fingertip tissues may suffer damage, leading to ulcers, scars, or gangrene.
(E) – Esophageal (eh-SOFF-uh-GEE-ul) dysfunction: impaired function of the esophagus (the tube connecting the throat and the stomach) that occurs when smooth muscles in the esophagus lose normal movement. In the upper esophagus, the result can be swallowing difficulties; in the lower esophagus, the problem can cause chronic heartburn or inflammation.
(S) – Sclerodactyly (SKLER-oh-DAK-till-ee): thick and tight skin on the fingers, resulting from deposits of excess collagen within skin layers. The condition makes it harder to bend or straighten the fingers. The skin may also appear shiny and darkened, with hair loss.
(T) – Telangiectasia (tel-AN-jee-ek-TAY-zee-uhs): small red spots on the hands and face that are caused by the swelling of tiny blood vessels. While not painful, these red spots can create cosmetic problems.
It is not necessary to have all five symptoms of CREST syndrome to be diagnosed with the disease. Some doctors believe only two of the five are necessary for a diagnosis.