CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISEASES
(Lupus, Sjogrens, Scleroderma, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease)
Connective tissue diseases are a group of autoimmune disorders that primarily affect females between the ages of 20-50 years. They are due to the production of auto-antibodies, or antibodies that attack internal organs. If left untreated they can go on to do irreversible damage, thus early diagnosis and treatment is essential.
Lupus is the most common of these disorders. Risk factors include being female and/or African-American. It is typically diagnosed through blood work which your primary care provider often orders based on symptomatology. Immediately following diagnosis, you should be seen by a rheumatologist for appropriate management. This is vital for control of this disease.
Common signs and symptoms:
Swollen lymph nodes
Painful and swollen joints
Rashes especially to sunlight
Ulcers In the mouth
Chest pain that is worse with deep breathing
Blood In the urine
Sjogrens syndrome is a disorder that can accompany rheumatoid arthritis or lupus and involves inflammation of the glands that produce saliva and tears causing severe dryness of the eyes and mouth.
Scleroderma is a less common disorder that results in inflammation of the skin and blood vessels leading to thickening and tightening of the skin overlying the hands and face. It is highly associated with Raynauds Syndrome which is the spasm of blood vessels at the tips of the fingers leading to a blue/purple color discoloration in cold weather.
Mixed connective tissue disease is the rarest form of connective tissue disease. It is a combination of lupus, scleroderma and typically some type of muscle disorder that causes muscle inflammation and weakness.
Typically involves use of oral steroids to reduce inflammation
Medicines that help to suppress an overactive immune system
Careful monitoring of blood tests including cell counts, kidney and liver function
Avoidance of sunlight or use of sunscreen at all times
It is essential that treatment be initiated and monitored by a rheumatologist to prevent further damage and complications.