Mixed connective tissue disease is a rare autoimmune disorder mainly affecting multiple joints of the body. It has features of rheumatic diseases such as SLE, scleroderma, polymyositis and Rheumatoid arthritis. It is more prevalent in women in the age group of 20 to 30 years.
Can Mixed Connective Tissue Disease Be Reversed?
Since mixed connective tissue involves signs and symptoms from multiple disorders, it is difficult to manage. Mixed connective tissue disease has no cure, only the symptoms can be managed with proper treatment. Mixed connective tissue disease is a progressive disease and mostly cannot be reversed. It can involve many different organs at one time making the treatment difficult along with further risk of developing complications. Sometimes lifelong treatment might be required in severe cases. Monitoring of the signs and symptoms is necessary to prevent adverse effects. The prognosis depends on the severity of the symptoms and the extent of involvement of various organs. The patient is also advised to make lifestyle changes and take a healthy diet rich in vitamin D, and antioxidants and avoid smoking and alcohol abuse. All these measures when taken with proper medication can help manage the symptoms.
Symptoms Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
It is known to have overlap symptoms of many connective tissue disorders. The earliest symptom to appear is the Raynaud’s disease where the fingers or toes go numb and cold in response to cold and stress. The fingers and toes first turn white followed by purplish blue and then when the blood returns to the periphery they turn red. It mostly occurs as a compensatory mechanism to conserve heat in the body so the blood flow to the peripheral tissues is restricted to prevent loss of heat. Later other organs start to get affected as well. Other symptoms include muscle and joint pain, weakness and tendency to get tired easily due to inflammation of the muscle groups present there, low grade fever, pain in abdomen, nerve disorders and difficulty in hearing. Esophageal dysfunction leads to heartburn and gastric reflux of acid along with difficulty in ingesting solid food bolus. Most of the patients with mixed connective tissue disease develop lung disease after a point of time. It can lead to significant difficulties in breathing that can either be due to inflammation of the lung tissue or scarring of the alveoli (interstitial lung disease) or due to increase in pressure in the pulmonary arteries (pulmonary hypertension).
Skin changes include inflammation and rashes on the skin along with hair loss over the affected areas of face and hands. The scarred tissue can mostly be seen in areas that are exposed to sun more. There can be swelling and numbness over the fingers and toes. Cardiac and renal involvement might also be present in about 10% of the cases with mixed connective tissue disease. Some cases might also present with neurological disorders associated with mixed connective tissue disease. In about 30 to 40 percent of the cases, there are also low levels of red blood cell count and hemoglobin along with decreased white blood cell count. Enlarged lymph nodes, spleen (splenomegaly) and liver (hepatomegaly) is also seen in many cases. There can also be involvement of the abdominal and intestinal tissues.
The exact cause of mixed connective tissue disease still remains unknown. It is seen to be genetically predisposed where the RNP antibodies are passed on that result in attacking of its own healthy cells.
Treatment Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
Once mixed connective tissue disease has been diagnosed the aim of treatment is to relieve the patient of symptoms since it cannot be cured. Vasodilators are given to treat Raynaud’s disease, proton pump inhibitors for gastric reflux disease and DMARDs for symptoms of arthritis. Low dose corticosteroids are prescribed for controlling the flaring symptoms. They might even be required to be given for a long period of time despite their long-term side effects and toxicities. NSAIDs are given to control inflammatory diseases under the supervision of a physician as they can lead to gastric problems. Immunosuppressant therapy is also required in some severe cases.
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