Connective Tissue Diseases

Connective tissues arthitis

Last Updated February 21st, 2019

What are the Connective Tissues?

There are several types of tissue in the human body and each kind has a specified function. The four main types are epithelial, muscular, connective and nervous tissues. The role of connective tissue, as the name suggests, is to bind, support and connect other tissues and organs together. It is the most abundant form of tissue in the body and can take many different forms. Examples of connective tissues include cartilage, adipose tissue (fat), blood and bone.

Connective tissues painOn a fundamental level, all connective tissue is composed of more or less the same mix of components. They are made up of a variety of living cells embedded in a matrix composed of non-living components including fibers and an amorphous ground substance. These three components come together to form the glue that provides the extracellular matrix for other tissues and organs. Typically, connective tissues consist of a far higher proportion of non-living substance than living cells.

The most common type of fiber is the tough proteinaceous collagen. Other types include elastic and reticular fibers. Ground substance performs the role of a medium facilitating the exchange of substances between the blood and various tissues. It can exist in liquid form (as in the plasma of blood), gelatinous (in areolar tissue), rubbery (in cartilage) or rigid form (as in bone).

 

What are Connective Tissue Diseases and What Forms Do They Take?

There are several disorders that can directly affect the various connective tissues of the body. Since connective tissues form the structural framework within our bodies, diseases affecting them will also have an impact on organs and other tissues associated with them. There can be difficulties relating to the muscles, skin, and joints as a result of connective tissue disease (CTD). Some of these diseases are hereditary. Others may be caused or triggered by infection, autoimmune disorders or injury. Yet others have no identifiable cause.

Hereditary Connective Tissue Disorders

This a group of disorders of the connective tissue that arise as a result of defective mutations in the genes. Because these genetic changes are inherited, the symptoms and signs of these disorders are most likely to manifest early on in life. Typically, they affect the way that connective tissues are formed and developed. An example is discussed below:

  • Marfan Syndrome: Fibrillin is a substance that imparts strength to connective tissue. An abnormality in the gene that codes for fibrillin is responsible for causing Marfan syndrome, a rare, hereditary CTD. As a result, the connective tissues are weakened to the extent that they become distorted under stress and may even rupture or tear. This adversely affects the bones, joints, muscles and internal organs such as the heart, eyes, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The stresses of pumping blood can cause the heart’s valves to weaken and become permanently distorted. This can lead to serious complications including fatality. The severity of symptoms is variable and they generally only become noticeable in adulthood. Individuals with Marfan syndrome tend to display certain peculiar physical characteristics such as arm span greater than their height, spidery fingers, deformed breastbone and spine, flat feet and unusually flexible joints. This is not a curable condition but advances in medical technology have helped improve life expectancy.

 

Autoimmune Connective Tissue Disease

Connective tissues arthitisIn some cases, the actual causes of connective tissue dysfunction are not well understood. However, it is believed that they are brought about by aberrant behavior of the immune system or autoimmune disorder. The function of the immune system is to target and destroy pathogens and toxic material. Sometimes, and often for unknown reasons, the immune system turns on the healthy cells and tissues of the body, causing them to become inflamed and damaged. It is believed that those with autoimmune disorders have a genetic predisposition to it.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting the joints. It is one the most common CTDs. The synovial membrane lining the insides of joints becomes inflamed and thickened as a result of an autoimmune activity. This makes movement difficult and painful. Patients also experience severe fatigue. Over time, this can lead to permanent damage of the cartilages as well as deformity and failure of joints. This is a systemic disease that is also capable of adversely affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. In some cases, this condition is known to be inherited.

 

Mixed Connective Tissue Disorders (MCTD)

CONNECTIVE TISSUESCertain cases are termed mixed CTDs because they display symptoms and laboratory findings confirming the simultaneous existence of multiple known CTDs. Usually, MCTD patients will exhibit overlapping characteristics of diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, polymyositis and rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms of these different diseases do not necessarily coexist all at once. They may manifest at different periods of life.

Typical early signs include swelling of the fingers, Raynaud’s phenomenon (the extremities become blue under cold conditions and turn red in response to heat), rashes and muscle and joint pains. In some cases, this remains a progressive condition despite treatment and can eventually cause fatal complications. Others may only experience mild symptoms throughout life.

 

Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD)

This label is applicable to cases where patients have symptoms as well as laboratory results pointing to a recognized CTD although they may not present enough such characteristics to qualify for a formal diagnosis. This is not to be confused with mixed connective tissue diseases (MCTD). To make the distinction clear, MCTD patients typically exhibit sufficient symptoms and characteristics to qualify for a definitive diagnosis of two or more recognized CTDs.

UCTD usually presents mild symptoms and follows a slow course of progression. Most patients will never progress into more severe forms of CTD. The most commonly observed symptoms in such cases are joint pain, swollen joints, low-grade fever, hair loss, rashes on the face, reduced tear and saliva production, Raynaud’s phenomenon, photosensitivity and oral ulcers.

 

How is Connective Tissue Disease Diagnosed?

The specific process of diagnosis is dependent on the nature of symptoms displayed by the patient. However, certain basic diagnostic procedures include:

  • Physical examination and medical history
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Tissue biopsy

 

Treatment and prevention

Mixed connective tissue disease

Treatment 

  • Medications to help prevent the immune system from attacking healthy cells are prescribed to those who have been diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD).
  • Medications to prevent flare-ups and suppress the symptoms of mild mixed connective tissue diseases are prescribed.
  • Those who have been diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease along with MCTD are prescribed calcium channel blocker to help relax the muscle lining in the blood vessels.
  • In the patient who has been diagnosed with other conditions such as lupus, for instance, are provided with immunosuppressant’s to reduce their symptoms.

Prevention 

Since this is an autoimmune disease, there are no sure shot prevention methods. There are certain lifestyle changes and risk factors that can delay the onset of this condition.

  • Reduce stress levels.
  • Do not indulge in smoking; this habit tends to restrict the blood flow, thereby aggravating the symptoms.
  • Keep your hands covered in cold temperatures.

Marfan syndrome 

Treatment 

  • Medications that help in controlling blood pressure are prescribed to those who have been diagnosed with this condition. This medication helps in inhibiting the aorta from enlarging and rupturing.
  • Medications to decrease the force with which the heart beats are prescribed to those who have been diagnosed with this condition.
  • Contact lenses or glasses will be prescribed to those who have a dislocated lens in their eyes, due to Marfan syndrome.
  • Surgery will be recommended if the aorta enlarges and is 2 inches. Here, surgeons may replace a part of the aorta with a synthetic tube. In some cases, the entire aorta is replaced.
  • A back brace will be prescribed for children who have been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, to help them restore their posture. At times, surgery may be needed to correct their posture.
  • Surgical correction of the breastbone may be done.
  • In patients whose retina has been torn or become lose may be recommended to get a corrective surgery done.

Prevention

Since Marfan syndrome is a genetic condition, there are no sure shot ways to prevent it. There are certain risk facts and lifestyle changes that one can make to delay the onset of this condition.

  • Do not indulge in contact or competitive sports.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not consume alcohol.

Raynaud’s disease 

Treatment 

  • Medications to help relax the blood vessels in the body may be prescribed to those who have been diagnosed with this condition.
  • Medications to relax the blood vessels along with reducing the symptoms and treating skin ulcers can be prescribed to those who have been diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease.
  • A surgical procedure to strip the sympathetic nerves in the affected hands and feet is conducted. This procedure is called sympathectomy. This procedure helps in reducing the symptoms and flare-ups of this condition.
  • Injections of onabotulinumtoxin type A are prescribed to patients to help reduce their symptoms of Raynaud’s disease.

Prevention 

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Avoid any rapid temperature change.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take extra caution in cold temperatures.

Facts

  • Among all connective tissue disorders, Sjorgen’s syndrome has the highest prevalence, with it being diagnosed in about 0.2-2% of the general population.

Facts

  • SLE or Systemic  Lupus Erythematosus is much more common among women ( in the childbearing phase) as compared to men. The prevalence is 6-10 times more in women than in men.

Facts

  • There are more than 200 different types of diseases that come under this category.
  • Overall,  women are thrice as much likely to be diagnosed with connective tissue disorders as compared to men.

Related Conditions

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Exercise regularly, doing so helps in supporting the joints and increases flexibility – in the case of joint pains.
  • Use a blanket to keep warm – in case of a fever.
  • Dry hair gently, using a rough towel and using force can damage your hair – in case of hair loss.
Don'ts
  • Ignore your body weight, maintaining a healthy body weight tends to put less pressure on the joints – in the case of joint pains.
  • Have a cold bath; doing so can aggravate the fever – in case of fever.
  • Use a bristled brush to style your hair, this tends to cause more breakage – in case of hair loss.

 

 

 

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Carrageenan: How a simple seaweed extract could better your gut health & immunity Eat more ice cream to prevent cold and flu? –With carrageenan you get one simple seaweed extract that…
Pumpkin Seeds: Why pumpkins are more than just for pies! Pumpkins have been long associated with Halloween carvings and delicious pies. But did you know that pumpkin seeds…
xylitol gum
Xylitol : Is this the right sugar substitute for you? Discovered during World War 2 owing to sugar shortage, xylitol has become a common name in pharamaceutical industry.…
Oxidative Stress: Understanding the most lethal phenomenon happening in your body right now Free radicals cause damage to the body, which is known as oxidation.  The amount of oxidation caused by…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
Tissue Transglutaminase Antibody (tTG) Test Transglutaminase is an enzyme present in our body and is involved in protein metabolism. A tTg test is…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
The complete “what to eat” guide for gluten intolerance Does eating breads and pastas often makes you nauseous? Gluten intolerance is a common reason why you might…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Is bronchitis contagious? And how to prevent this infection? It is acute bronchitis that is contagious which means you can contract it from another person or you…
11 unbelievable health benefits of thyme you didn’t know! Thyme is a herb that has been used in alternative medicine.It is a well known seasoning in the…
hepatitis B envelope antigen
Hepatitis B Envelope Antigen (HBeAg) The HBeAg or hepatitis B envelope antigen test is a screening test used to diagnose the onset of…
dhea adrenal
Androstenedione Test Androstenedione is produced by the adrenal gland, the test of the levels of Androstenedione helps in the evaluation…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Tattoo Aftercare: The best practices to follow once you get inked Planning getting permanently inked? Make sure you follow these critical tattoo aftercare techniques to avoid infectious agents attacking…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
shoudler exercises
Keep your shoulders pain-free with these shoulder exercises Shoulder exercises are important in order to prevent chronic back and neck pain. Learn more about how you…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
edamame
Edamame: How healthy are these green baby beans? Edamame or "immature" soybeans are soft and easily digestable forms of soybeans that are great as an eveyday…
Peanut Butter: A spread of nutrients on your morning toast With tons of nutrients and powerful antioxidants swirling in every scoop, peanut butter is truly the one thing…
Beware of these common foods that cause high bodily inflammation! Maybe its the long list of inflammatory foods in your diet that is making you frequently sick. Find…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
Hibiscus: Nourish your beauty and health with these vibrant blooms Hibiscus is a trumpet shaped flower found abundantly in tropical countries. It has been historically used for its…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
Erythritol: A healthy sugar substitute or yet another marketing ploy? Erythritol is a popular choice of a healthy alternative sweetening agent in foods. But how healthy can a…
bradycardia fainting
What does hypoglycemia look like when you don’t have diabetes? Hypoglycemia is not just a disease that co-occurs with diabetes. Non-diabetics could also become hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia can be…