Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Mixed connective tissue disease is an autoimmune disorder which has symptoms of other connective diseases. These symptoms are so mixed with each other; it is difficult to differentiate them. In this disorder, one's own immune system attacks its own connective tissue considering it to be an invader. It is a rare condition in which another connective tissue disorder develops slowly over a period of a few years. It occurs more in women than men. Its causes are not clear. Its symptoms include muscular pain, joint pain, fatigue, Raynaud phenomenon and others discussed below.

Is Mixed Connective Tissue Disease Painful?

In the early stage, mixed connective tissue disease affects hands and fingers. It leads to the swelling and pain in the fingers. The numbness and whiteness develop in the fingertips; occur due to cold exposure and stress. In the later stage, it may extend to the lungs, heart, and kidneys. It can also affect the blood, blood vessels, bones and muscles of the body.

When mixed connective tissue disease involves muscles, bones, nerves, etc., it causes pain and swelling in these parts. It is usually a painful condition.

The exact cause of mixed connective tissue disease us not known. The overactive immune system may attack the healthy tissues of the body. They destroy the fibers of the muscles and skin making them rigid and hard. It also causes the inflammation of proteins, namely collagen, and elastin. Genetic anomalies can also trigger mixed connective tissue disease. Usually, patients have a family history of mixed connective tissue disease.

Symptoms Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

The symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease are following-

Early Symptoms

  • Joint pain
  • Muscular pain without any apparent cause
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue
  • Raynaud phenomenon- numbness, loss of color and sensitivity in fingers, ears, nose, and toes due to exposure to cold and stress.

Less Common Symptoms-

  • Acute onset of intense arthritis
  • Inflammatory disease of the spinal cord (Myelitis)
  • Gangrene in fingers or toes
  • High fever
  • Loss of hearing
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Neuropathy involving trigeminal nerve in the face
  • Severe polymyositis of shoulders and upper arms
  • Aseptic meningitis

Classic Symptoms

  • Swollen fingers like sausages that may progress to thin fingers and hard skin over it with reduced range of motion
  • Raynaud phenomenon
  • Inflammation of muscles and joints
  • Increased blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)

Diagnosis Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

The diagnosis of mixed connective tissue disease is often tricky. Your physician will study all your symptoms and your medical history. He will perform a physical examination to observe your affected hands and other affected joints. Blood tests are performed to find out the exact antibody present in the blood that can be linked with mixed connective tissue disease. Electromyogram is often used to record the electric activity in the nerves and muscles. Muscle biopsy is also done to evaluate the damage to the muscle fiber.

Treatment For Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

Mixed connective tissue disease is treated by corticosteroids to control the exaggerated immune system. This help in reduction in inflammation. There are other treatment options too.

Mixed connective tissue disease is a combination of connective tissue diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, and polymyositis. This condition is also called overlap disease as their characteristic symptoms overlap with each other. It is an autoimmune disease. In this condition, the representing symptoms are so jumbled that the doctors cannot diagnose a particular disease.

Mixed connective tissue disease is seen more in women than men. Women usually develop this disorder at the age of 50 years or above. It occurs worldwide and can develop at any age. Its peak incidence occurs in adolescent age in 20s.

Conclusion

Mixed connective tissue disease is a group of disorders of connective tissue. It is a rare autoimmune disorder. Its symptoms are a combination of few connective tissue diseases that overlap each other difficult to differentiate. Mixed connective tissue disease can cause pain in the muscles or bones or joints, causing deformities and disability.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: February 8, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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