Mixed connective tissue is a rare autoimmune disorder that involves multiple joints of the body. It presents with overlap symptoms of many other connective tissue disorders such as lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid and polymyositis. It mostly affects women under the age of 30 years.
Mixed connective tissue disease has no cure, but its symptoms can be managed with proper treatment and care. The exact cause of the disease is not known, but it is mostly seen to be hereditary wherein antibodies are formed against RNA in these patients and these attack the elastin and collagen fibers of its own body. What causes this immune response to take place in these patients is still under study.
Alternative Treatment For Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
There are no proven alternative treatment options for mixed connective tissue disease; however, acupuncture, stress reduction and lifestyle modification has shown benefits in most patients.
Diagnosis will be made on the basis of thorough medical history along with blood tests that detect the levels of antinuclear antibodies that are positive for mixed connective tissue disease. The treatment includes the use of NSAIDs, DMARDs and low-dose corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, pain and sudden flares of the diseases. In some cases immunosuppressive therapy is required with methotrexate, azathioprine and mycophenolate mofetil.
Other methods to manage the disease include adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking a balanced diet. It is important to strengthen the immune system in order to fight the infections. Taking a diet rich in vitamin D is helpful in boosting the immunity of a person and it also helps in reduction of pain and muscle weakness. Fresh fruits and vegetables do not only provide nutrition, but it also helps in reducing the flare of sudden symptoms associated with connective tissue disorders. Consumption of fish and fish oil is very healthy, as it relieves stiffness and inflammation leading to joint pain in people affected by mixed connective tissue disease. Foods rich in antioxidants such as strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and blueberries are helpful in fighting free radicals that weaken the immune system.
Alcohol, caffeinated drinks should be avoided as they might lead to dehydration and further weakening of the immune system. Smoking should be avoided as it might lead to breathing difficulties and congestion of lungs. It is also advised to exercise regularly and follow an active lifestyle to strengthen the bone and prevent stiffness along with boosting the overall health of the body. Yoga and frequent exercise or workout also helps in relieving stress that might lead to further worsening of the arthritic symptoms associated with mixed connective tissue disease. Acupuncture has also shown benefits in patient with extreme painful joints and in also relieving symptoms related to stress. Massage is also helpful in getting rid of pain and stiffness in most cases. However in severe cases medical management should be accompanied with alternative methods to achieve maximum benefits and results in mixed connective tissue disease.
Symptoms Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
The first symptom to appear is the Raynaud’s phenomenon where the fingers and toes become numb and pale in response to stress and cold. There will be joint and muscle pain, swelling of hands and fingers, difficulty in ingesting food bolus, weakness in hands and legs, gastric reflux and difficulty in breathing. Skin manifestations include rashes in the face and neck area, and scarred skin appearance. There can be extreme pain in the joints of shoulders and hips making it difficult for the person to perform day to day activities. There can be lung involvement also and it can lead to potentially fatal condition such as pulmonary hypertension. Heart failure might also occur that will lead to fatigue, collection of fluid in the body and difficulty in breathing. Involvement of the kidney is also present in 25% of the cases. A person might also present with symptom sof low grade fever, enlarged lymph nodes and abdominal pain and discomfort along with hepatomegaly and splenomegaly.
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