Is Mixed Connective Tissue Disease The Same As Lupus?

Is Mixed Connective Tissue Disease The Same As Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which an exaggerated immune system of the body attacks its own healthy tissues or organs. It affects joints, skin, blood, brain, heart, lungs and kidneys. The facial rash is its characteristic feature. This rash is similar to wings of a butterfly that is seen across both the cheeks. However, it is not seen in every case of lupus.

Mixed connective tissue disease is not same as lupus. It is an autoimmune disorder like lupus in which immune system attacks its own connective tissue considering it an invader. It does have clinical features of lupus-like rashes on the body, skin lesions, joint pain headaches, etc. but they are other symptoms of other connective tissue diseases that get mixed with others.

Mixed connective tissue disease is treated similarly to lupus by suppression of the immune system. Corticosteroids are given soon after the diagnosis of the condition. It is prescribed in the early course of the disease. The symptoms are managed. They prevent the immune system from getting overactive and reduce inflammation.

Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) is a group of disorders that affect the connective tissue of the body. This disease represents characteristic clinical symptoms of connective tissue disease. These symptoms get mixed with each other that it is difficult to distinguish these diseases. Thus, mixed connective tissue disease is also called overlap syndrome. These connective diseases do not appear at once. They occur in sequence one by one in a span of many years. This makes diagnosis more problematic for a physician.

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 involve the lungs, heart, and kidneys. It can also affect the blood, blood vessels, bones and muscles of the body.

Mixed connective tissue disease can disappear for a few years and can come back. It is seen in 30% of cases.

The incidence of mixed connective tissue disease occurs more in women than men. It develops in women mostly after 50 years of age. However, it can occur at any age. It occurs more commonly at age of 20 years.

Causes Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

Its causes are not clear. It is affected by genetic abnormalities, or overactive immune system or trauma. However, it is not clear in every case of mixed connective tissue disease. In research studies, it is found that patients have a family history of this disease.

Symptoms Of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

The symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease do not develop together at once; they develop in sequence gradually over a period of years. These symptoms are
Pale or tingle or blue coloration of fingers or hands (Raynaud’s phenomenon).

  • Mild fever
  • Increased tiredness and lethargy
  • Red or brown rashes on the knuckles
  • Numbness in face or head
  • Swollen hands
  • Swollen or painful joints
  • Deformity in the joints that may affect normal activities of daily routine
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • heartburn
  • shortness of breath

Mixed connective tissue disease is a rare bunch of the disorders characterized by clinical features of scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, and polymyositis. They overlap with each other. All of them do not develop at once. They develop gradually over several years. Its real cause is not known. Its symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, Raynaud’s phenomenon, swollen joints and many more. It is detected by blood tests, chest X-rays, electromyogram and muscle biopsy. It is often treated like lupus to suppress the overactive immune system.


Mixed connective tissue disease is a rare autoimmune disease that comprises characteristic symptoms of lupus, scleroderma, and polymyositis. Mixed connective tissue disease is not truly same as lupus as it consists of clinical features of other connective tissue too that overlap over with each other. Its treatment is quite similar to lupus by suppressing the overactive immune system.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 19, 2021

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