Professionals you may meet
You may meet a number of professionals in the course of getting a diagnosis or after you have received a diagnosis. Here's a brief introduction to the role of each professional.
GP (General Practitioner)
Your GP or family doctor can make referrals to relevant professionals for you. Although responsible for the general health of their patients, GPs do not usually offer specialist advice or treatment and would refer you to a specialist.
Specialist referrals for diagnosis and ongoing consultation
A rheumatologist is trained in the diagnosis (detection) and treatment of systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases such as Raynaud's and Scleroderma.
Dermatologists are doctors who diagnose and treat diseases and tumours of the skin, hair, and sweat glands. If you have difficulties with tightness of skin or ulcers then you may need a referral to a dermatologist.
Managing your health
Counsellor and psychotherapist
Counsellors and psychotherapists are able to talk through various issues with individuals and families. You can get counselling on the NHS through a GP referral.
Regular dental check-ups are important with small mouth difficulties with scleroderma. Many people find visits to the dentist difficult, so a patient and sympathetic dentist can really help. The British Society for Disability and Oral Health can put you in touch with relevant dental services.
Dieticians provide advice and information on nutrition and diet for Scleroderma and Raynaud's as this can affect your condition. Your GP, paediatrician or hospital consultant can make a referral to a dietician. We strongly recommend you consult a dietician before introducing any dietary intervention. You can find dieticians working as a specialist group of the British Dietetic Association.
Health visitor for children
Health visitors are specially-trained nurses responsible for the promotion of health and development in pre-school children with conditions. Concerns about development may be raised with or by a health visitor during routine developmental assessments. You may then be referred to other professionals.
Occupational therapists are often concerned with the difficulties people have in carrying out everyday activities. They can help with therapeutic techniques, identifying sensory sensitivities, adaptations to the environment, and specialist equipment. They may work for the NHS or social services. Some Occupational Therapists work in private practice.
An outreach worker can help adults to access opportunities and activities outside their home. This might include assisting people to take part in their favourite sport or attend a college course.
Opticians are able to assess eyesight difficulties with dry eyes from scleroderma.
Paediatrician for children
Paediatricians are experts in the health and development of children and offer follow-up support in some cases. Your GP or another health professional usually needs to refer your child to a paediatrician.
SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) / Learning Support Teacher
The SENCO (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales), or Learning Support Teacher (in Scotland) is the teacher in a school or nursery with day-to-day responsibility for SEN (Special Educational Needs). Parents should always be consulted and kept informed of the action taken to help their child and of the outcome of this action.
Social worker and care manager
Social workers and care managers are involved in assessing the care needs of people and their families. They are also involved in arranging services to meet those needs. If you do not have a named social worker or care manager and need urgent assistance from your local social services team, ask to speak to the duty social worker.
Speech and language therapist (SLT)
Speech and language therapists (SLTs) assess speech, language and communication abilities due to scleroderma. They can carry out therapy to assist with specific difficulties, and may also be involved in implementing alternative communication systems, such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). They may also offer a follow-up service. Your GP can refer you to an NHS SLT. Speech and language therapy may sometimes be accessed through your local education authority if it is recognised as an educational need on a child's statement, Individual Education Plan, Education Help and Care Plan, or Coordinated Support Plan.