Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
Mixed connective tissue disease, sometimes referred to as an overlap disease, is a disorder that includes signs and symptoms of a combination of disorders including lupus, scleroderma, polymyositis, and in some cases, rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease don't always appear all at once and may occur in sequence over a number of years, which can make diagnosing this disease difficult. Mixed connective tissue disease can cause inflammation and damage to various parts of the body and can affect joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and the brain. It is most common in women under 30, however children may sometimes be affected by this disorder.
Causes of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
The exact cause of mixed connective tissue disease is unknown, although it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly fights healthy cells or tissue. With mixed connective tissue disease, it seems that the immune system is attacking the tissues and fibers that provide support for the body.
Symptoms of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
The early symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease are typically mistaken for lupus, scleroderma, or polymyositis. Early symptoms often involve the hands, as fingers may swell and become numb. Additional symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease may also include:
- Muscle Pain
- Swollen and painful joints
- Fingers may turn white or purple
- General feeling of being unwell
Mixed connective tissue disorder can lead to serious complications including high blood pressure, lung problems, heart disease and kidney failure.
Diagnosis of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
Mixed connective tissue disease is generally difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms arise slowly and are similar to those of other conditions. To diagnose mixed connective tissue disease, the doctor will review all symptoms and perform a physical examination. A blood test is also performed to determine the presence of a certain antibody within the bloodstream.
Treatment of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
There is no cure currently available for mixed connective tissue disease, and treatment may not be necessary for individuals with mild cases of the disease. For individuals with more severe cases of mixed connective tissue disease, the symptoms may be managed with medication such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. Individuals are also encouraged to avoid smoking, protect their hands from the cold and reduce stress in their lives to help reduce flare-ups of symptoms.