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Connective Tissue Disease; What is it and who is at risk?

Updated: Jun 11

Author: Blaise Ntacyabukura, MD, MMedSc




The human body is held together by protein-rich structures called connective tissues. Two different proteins form connective tissues: collagen and elastin, the former being found mainly in tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage, bone, and blood vessels. In contrast, the latter is principally found in ligaments and the skin. Many things can go wrong with each of those proteins, and as a result, many organs get affected simultaneously, producing debilitating symptoms scattered around the body.


Examples of connective tissue are fat, bone, and cartilage. These disorders often involve the joints, muscles, and skin, but they can also involve other organs and organ systems, including the eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and blood vessels. There are more than 200 disorders that affect the connective tissue. Causes and specific symptoms vary by the different types.


These are the risk factors of connective tissue diseases and their most common symptoms.


You are at risk if:

  • You are female

  • You are using some strong medications (The doctor will advise about this)

  • You are genetically prone to connective tissue diseases

  • You have an autoimmune disease

  • You’re exposed to some chemical substances


Symptoms


Symptoms often start in the second or third decades of life. Even though early symptoms such as general malaise, joint discomfort, and low-grade fever may be nonspecific and look like symptoms for common diseases, the presentation of connective tissue is;

  • Swollen hands or puffy fingers

  • Severe joint pain often with deformities

  • Ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose pain due to less blood flow in those areas in response to cold, stress, or emotional upset.

  • Easy fatigability

  • Poorly defined muscle pains

  • Hair loss

  • Skin rashes with Sunburns

  • Fever of unknown origin

  • Mouth and eyes drynessFluid around the heart and/or lungs



Connective tissues often progress to heart, lung, kidney, and food digestion problems. As treatment could last decades and cost a fortune, we recommend joining BYON8 for more affordable care offered by the most reputable doctors in the region, accessible 24 hours a day and seven days a week.


Sources:

  1. Sharp, G et al. Mixed connective tissue disease--an apparently distinct rheumatic disease syndrome associated with a specific antibody to an extractable nuclear antigen (ENA). The American journal of medicine, 52(2), 148–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-9343(72)90064-2

  2. Cappelli, S et al. "To be or not to be," ten years after evidence for mixed connective tissue disease as a distinct entity. Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism, 41(4), 589–598. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2011.07.010

  3. Sen, S et al. Cutaneous manifestations of mixed connective tissue disease: a study from a tertiary care hospital in eastern India. Indian journal of dermatology, 59(1), 35–40. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5154.123491


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