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Biomarker for Diffuse Scleroderma skin has been discovered!


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#1 Pokey

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 04:31 AM

Hello, it has been awhile since I was last here as my sister (diagnosed last year at this time) has been doing fairly well. It was not until recently that I have become concerned again.

This is going to sound off the wall, but I think we all have our own thoughts as to what "triggered" scleroderma. I do not want to offend anyone by suggesting this. I feel silly just saying it but here goes.

"Louise" had a cat for about 7 years. When the cat began getting sick Louise started with "symptoms", first one being what she thought was carpal tunnel. Symptoms progressed until bad enough to make an appointment where about 5 months later a definite diagnosis was found: systemic scleroderma. She has found a rheumatologist who sees her every 2-3 months and honestly has been feeling better. She is now starting to be able to golf again and enjoy some of the things she used to.

Back to the cat. The cat died around the time she was diagnosed and I have always be "leary" of them.

My question is has anyone out there read about felines as a possible trigger for scleroderma and of those of you who have scleroderma do you have a cat or ever have had a cat?

Please, please forgive me for those of you who love your cat dearly. I am just probably going on a silly gut feeling.

Anyway, the reason I have become concerned recently is that her daughter, who lives at college, recently got a cat. "Louise" now watches the cat from time to time and I am fearful of a decline. Not only that but the cat is not de-clawed and if she gets a scratch on her hands or arms that is not going to heal very fast, is it?

Louise has no idea about my thoughts as she loved her cat very much. So again, does anyone else believe cats or even being exposed to cat litter may be a possible "trigger".

I would appreciate any input on your thoughts. I will keep you posted as well. Thank you all for your time. Love and Peace, Pokey

#2 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:10 AM

Hi Pokey,

No question too silly to ask~ wink.gif

If you have a look at some of the avatars, you'll see a lot with cats. I know many, many members have or had cats (including me) so there has been some discussion about this.

I think the consensus of opinion here on the Forum was that it wasn't the cat that we suspected, but the litter for the litter box. Some types contain silica in some form and silica is one of those minerals that has been implicated as a cause. Here's the link to the Silica Exposure page.

My cat went quite a few years ago, so I haven't shopped for litter recently, but I think some members have said there is a kind made out of paper that has no silica in it. Might be worth giving Louise a bag of it and the information about silica exposure as a possible cause.

Cat-scratch is another matter entirely and scratches may cause an infection with a bacteria species known as Bartonella. Here's a link to the CDC's page on Cat Scratch Fever The infection is usually treated with antibiotics.

Warm hugs,


Jeannie McClelland
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#3 enjoytheride

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:54 AM

I'm pretty new here and definitely have less experience with this disease. But I can't seem to help trying to figure out why- what happened.
I got my goats and within a year seemed to be having problems that look to be, from reading here, related to the disease. I had a goat with a serious disease and got a needle stick from her that has formed a large lump- and that's when the calcinosis started. But also, if I'm honest, I had a lot of sneaky symptoms before I got the goats.
I built a new home in 2000- could the building materials be the trigger? The new location?
Too many factors to be sure of anything. I just keep whizzing around in circles.
The truth is I can't point to one thing and say that's it. However comforting that would be.
Could it be that your sister was stressed over the cat's illness and this allowed the symptoms to come forward?
It's good to hear your sister is doing better and I can understand fully not wanting to rock that particular boat.

#4 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 05:59 AM

Hmmm, I've had cats at varying times in my life, but not for a long time before I started to develop symptoms - I wasn't even living in a house that had ever hosted a cat. So yes to the first question and yes to the second one, in the 'prior' tick box, I guess, but it would be stretching it.

I've only been without a dog for a couple of my 62 years and that was stressful. Posted Image

As a complete aside, I think my husband only married me to get joint custody of the German Shepherd I had at the time. Posted Image
Jeannie McClelland
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#5 janey

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 06:18 AM

Pokey,
First let me say what a wonderful sister you are! Your sister is lucky to have someone like you watching out for her and taking such an active roll in the management of her disease.

Jeannie makes a very good point about cat liter. When I was reading your message that was exactly what I was thinking of. Please look at the contents and make sure the liter doesn't contain silica. The silica in the liter can be a very fine dust that gets stirred up and airborne when you clean out the liter box. Because of your proximity, you are more than likely breathe some of it into your lungs. I have 2 cats and, even though we make sure that our liter is silica free, my husband still has the wonderful duty of liter box cleanout. One of those chores I have been delighted to relinquish.

I do have systemic scleroderma and have had it for 6 years. I had one cat for 18 years. He died in 1998. We have now had 2 cats since 1999. I developed scleroderma in 2003. Yes, the liter we had been using all those years did contain silica plus I had been working with silicon wafers and around chemicals (solvents and caustics) used for computer chip manufacturing for 14 years. So I've probably had lots of silica and chemical exposure which I think was a contributing factor, but then triggered by hormones when I became perimenopausal. That's just an educated guess, but will never be able to prove it one way or another.

One thing to remember is that this disease can go up and down. I've had a great year, but have developed some new symptoms this summer. The main thing is to recognize that something is going on and put a stop to it ASAP. I'm glad that your sister did see some time of improvement. Please have her visit her rheumatologist to assess her current situation.

Big Hugs to you both,
Janey Willis
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#6 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 07:41 AM

I knew this was going to drive me nuts, so I did a quick web search and comparision of cat litters. It looks like the plain clay probably doesn't have silica in it and the most likely ones to have it are those that are billed multi-cat or long-lasting or highly absorbent, since the purpose of the silica is to soak up moisture. <Sigh> I just see me wandering up and down the pet aisles checking the litter packages just to see what they have in them~

And the old brain just sparked - "Ah Jeannie, you goof, what about those 20+ pounds of pure silica gel that you were filling up all the buckets you were drying the #2 daughter's wedding flowers in?" The stuff went everywhere. This was the end of June, so it'll be interesting to see if I have an exacerbation of symptoms, other than with my credit card, which is still recovering from some extreme stress. :lol:
Jeannie McClelland
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International Scleroderma Network

#7 ladyhawke

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:02 AM

Hi all
I started a thread about this awhile ago....here's the link to it..

http://www.sclero.or...617

I hope that comes through ok, I've never tried to do that before. It's got some very good responses in it. I have always had cats my whole life. I have four right now and I too thought it could be from the cat litter. All clay cat litters have silica dust....do a search on "respirable silica dust".....you will be amazed! It's everywhere. Beach sand....cat litter....my husband was doing soap stone carving....yep....when you get the dust from the carving of soapstone you get respirable silica dust. It's not harmful until it becomes a respirable dust. The gold miners get scleroderma from it, to the point that it has become a compensation issue from years ago.
The cat litter that I know use is made from corn. A clumping cat litter completely biodegradable and flushable. It's natural, not dusty, cleaner and I highly recommend it.
I wish that we could know where we all got this horrible thing from. I was diagnosed with crest 3 years ago. I'm on Imuran and prednisone. But my rheumatologist says that the imuran is for the polymyositis (which it is controlling) and that there is no drug out there for scleroderma. All that can be done for it, is to relieve the symptoms....thus the prednisone. I don't blame the cat litter or soapstone or anything else on this. I agree that perhaps an extremely stressful situation may have brought it forward.....sigh.....hugs to all - Lisa
Life is NOT meant to be a struggle. Life is meant to be joyously abundant.

#8 Shelley Ensz

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 11:54 AM

I agree that it's hard not knowing exactly what the cause of scleroderma is, in any particular case. It's my general impression that it is probably the degree of exposure to inhaled silica that matters, and then, only for people who are somehow susceptible to scleroderma in the first place.

For example, miners who work with silica dust for years and years, would rack up quite an exposure; and they probably get more exposure in one hour than most of us would in an entire lifetime of changing a litter box. Even then, they don't come down sick with scleroderma until they've been on the job a good long time. And, at that, only a small percentage of them.

Another thing to consider about silica is that "its everywhere, its everywhere!". The entire earth is composed of silica; it is in rocks and dust and earth; it is the most abundant mineral on earth. It is in glass and concrete, sand, and quartz. It is virtually impossible for any human being not to be exposed to it, and in abundance. That is why it comes down to a matter of degree, and why those who suffer the complication of scleroderma from it are generally those who have had very long and severe occupational exposure of some sort.

So, it makes it more likely that there are other factors involved in the onset of scleroderma, other than cats or litter. For that, we have dozens and dozens of pages of info on Causes of Scleroderma which are likely to inspire even more threads. Most of us, if we did a thorough inventory of our lives including our occupations and hobbies and exposures to environmental chemicals, are very likely to have had numerous exposures to many different triggers, making it nigh impossible to say for sure, except in cases of the most obvious known occupational hazards.
Warm Hugs,

Shelley Ensz
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Hotline and Donations: 1-800-564-7099

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#9 Eos

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 01:23 PM

I have had cats all my life. I am convinced this did not cause my sclero....Maybe the STRESS your sister experienced as her beloved companion was falling ill caused a flare up, which lead to her seeking medical advice and getting a diagnosis. Actually research has shown that pets are beneficial for us.

#10 imagine2

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 01:25 PM

hello Pokey, I have had cats all my life, usually 3 at a time, but I also foster some so I have had up to 6 at a time. My experience with scleroderma symtoms didn't start until I was 35, right after the birth of my beautiful daughter. I have noticed with this disease, that my symtoms do seem to be worse when I am under stress, and even by the death of one of my cats. Over the years I have wondered what could be the cause of this disease, was it when I worked in a plastic factory, was it something I ate, or was it the birth of my child. I never thought it could be due to having cats. Now I dont wonder how I got it, just what I can do to make my life better. I have lost the ability to do alot of the things that I once loved, but I focus on finding something else instead. I use to love gardening but it became to painful, so I decided to buy 5 bird feeders, now I sit and enjoy watching them eat at the feeders while my daughter plants our favorite flowers. I'm out there so much that the wild critters have gotten use to me. Squirrels and chickadees have actually come and eaten out of my hand. When I'm feeling down, I hold one of my cats and feel so much better. They help cut down alot of my stress. I agree that the stress from losing her cat could have triggered something. Like you, my sister constantly worries about one of the cats scratching me, or my parrot biting me. But I think the benefit of owning animals is far greater than the risks. Your sister is lucky to have you, and I hope all of this helps.

#11 summer

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 06:57 PM

I also have had cats all of my life, I don't blame my cats for me having Scleroderma.
Mine was most likely triggered for all of the times I changed cheap gravel
kitty litter, with the dust everywhere. My cats have given me so much joy over the years, and even if they did give me Scleroderma, I would not part with them.

I'm sorry that I am going on and on, it just seems that Cat's are always being blamed for things. No one would say a Dog might give me Scleroderma.

Summer

#12 Pokey

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 02:06 PM

Hello again, First of all, let me thank all of you who took the time to respond to my questions. I value everyones input and again hope I did not offend anyone by suggesting their cat or cat litter caused this awful disease. I am going down a road you all have been down before just looking for any answers. If anything has come out of this it is "awareness" and that is a good thing. I love my sis very much and would do anything to help her in anyway. Love to you all, Pokey