Nicola Whitehill, 40, has watched her skin wither before her eyes for last the 16 years after developing both Raynaud’s phenomenon and scleroderma (systematic sclerosis). Once a girl who "lived off vodka and Red Bull," Nicola now has a new lifestyle of daily oil baths and lengthy moisturizing sessions to prevent her skin from hardening and restricting movement.

“I treated it just like a cold at first, and thought I'll take the tablets and it will go away,” Nicola explained to the Daily Mail.

“But then just walking even 100 yards became painful. I didn't change my life for seven years because I never really admitted to myself how serious it was. It's like having the worst hangover ever, times by one million.”

Back in 1997, Nicola received the diagnosis of Raynaud’s and scleroderma following four years of nausea and general pain, for which she was prescribed immunosuppressant medications. Together, these diseases have caused Nicola’s skin and blood vessels to tighten, subsequently restricting her movement.

“It's a full time job just managing the symptoms. When I wake up I'm like the Tin Man. My whole body is stiff and feels like leather,” she continued.

“I have to bathe in liquid paraffin and then cover myself in cream otherwise I can't even straighten my arms out in front of me.”

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

According to the Arthritis Foundation, Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs when blood vessels leading to your fingertips, toes, and nose constrict as result of cold temperatures or stress. This reaction, also known as a vasospastic attack, can be induced by touching a cold glass of water or entering a room that is air-conditioned.

Due to her worsening condition and lack of blood flow, skin ulcers have started to emerge on the tips of Nicola's fingers. If the disease is not properly treated, a lack of oxygen to tissue can cause gangrene, which may require amputation.

Scleroderma (Systematic Sclerosis)

Systematic scleroderma is a group of autoimmune rheumatic diseases characterized by the hardening of skin and tissue. In some cases, including Nicola’s, this disorder can eventually affect inner organs, although this complication has not set in with her.

Women are more susceptible to systematic sclerosis compared to men. Doctors believe a buildup of collagen produced by the immune system is to blame. Left untreated, scleroderma can spread to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

“I didn't look after myself properly and I worked very long hours. But all of a sudden, I couldn't just jump out of bed anymore,” Nicola told the Daily Mail.

“Now I respect the symptoms and try and work around them.”