The symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease are a combination of signs and symptoms of few disorders (primarily lupus, scleroderma and polymyositis). Therefore, the condition is sometimes called an overlap disease. The symptoms of each disorder usually don’t occur at once, but in sequence over few years, what makes diagnosing the condition of mixed connective tissue disease complicated. The early sings generally affect the hands making the fingers swell and the fingertips white and numb, and later some organs (lungs, heart, and kidneys) can be also affected. As there is no cure for this disease, there is only a treatment for the symptoms usually with medications.
Early symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease are:
- Malaise accompanied with fatigue and mild fever
- Raynaud’s phenomenon-cold and numb fingers and toes which can become white and then purplish after cold weather or stress, as well as red after warming them up.
- Swelling of the fingers and hands
- Pain in the muscles and deformed joints
- Reddish rash over the knuckles
Mixed connective tissue disease is an autoimmune disorder what means that the immune system of a person, that has the responsibility to fight diseases, attacks the healthy cells by mistake. In this condition, the immune system attacks fibers that provide the basis and support of the body. The exact cause of the mixed connective tissue disease is not known yet. However, there are some researchers that work to find out which proteins produced by the immune system may cause the disease to occur. It is also unclear whether genetics plays a role in formation of the disease.
Although it can occur at any age, it seems that mixed connective tissue disease affects the mostly women under 30.
Mixed connective tissue disease can result in dangerous complications, such as:
- Heart disease
- Interstitial lung disease
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Damage to the digestive tract
- Kidney damage
- Loss of the hearing sense
Because there is no cure for this disease, the only thing to be done is to get medications that can manage the symptoms. Treatments may be needed only when the disease outbreaks or a continuous treatment if the condition is more serious. The medications included in the treatment can be:
- Antimalarial drugs
- Calcium channel blockers
- Pulmonary hypertension medications
Some other ways that can help a patient of mixed connective tissue to control the symptoms are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Protecting the hands from cold
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing stress
The corticosteroids are often used for treating mixed connective tissue disease. Although effective, they can be risky as well. Some contra-effects can be osteoporosis, muscle weakness or infection. Therefore, the patient’s condition will need to be monitored in order to follow appearance of possible adverse effects of the corticosteroids. Calcium and vitamin D intake can help making these effects easier.