CREST syndrome: Introduction
CREST syndrome is a type of systemic scleroderma and an ongoing, progressive, autoimmune disease that attacks the connective tissues of the body. CREST syndrome can also affect any part of the body. CREST is an acronym for a group of conditions that are hallmarks of CREST syndrome and affect the skin, muscles, digestive tract and other organs and blood vessels.
The exact cause of CREST syndrome is not known, but it is classified as an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, such as CREST syndrome, the body's immune system mistakes healthy tissues as foreign and potentially dangerous invaders into the body and attacks them. This process results in an excessive production of a protein called collagen and a hardening of tissues, which can seriously affect many body systems, including the skin, blood vessels and organs.
CREST syndrome is rare, but it is more common in African-Americans than in Whites. CREST syndrome is also more common in women than in men.
The symptoms of CREST syndrome can be mild, moderate, or severe. Typical symptoms include paleness, coldness, swelling and numbness of the fingers and toes and a thickening of the skin of the hands and feet. Serious symptoms and complications can occur with CREST syndrome and may include difficulty swallowing, kidney damage, hypertension and abnormal heart rhythms. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of CREST syndrome.
Making a diagnosis of CREST syndrome begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination with a focus on the skin. Diagnostic testing includes a blood test that measures the antibody that the body produces in scleroderma. A biopsy may also be done. In a biopsy, a small piece of affected tissue is examined under a microscope in the laboratory for excessive amounts of collagen. Other tests are performed to evaluate general health and help to determine the extent of CREST syndrome and if complications are present.
It is possible that a diagnosis of CREST syndrome can be missed or delayed because some symptoms may be associated with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of CREST syndrome.
Treatment for CREST syndrome varies depending on the severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and other factors. CREST syndrome cannot be cured, but supportive care can help to reduce symptoms. Treatment can include a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, physical therapy and exercise. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of CREST syndrome. ...more »
CREST stands for Calcinosis, Raynaud's phenomenon, Esophageal dysfunction, Sclerodactyly, and Telangiectasia. ...more »
CREST syndrome: Animations
More CREST syndrome animations & videos
CREST syndrome: Broader Related Topics
Types of CREST syndrome
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