What is connective tissue disorders?

Connective tissues are groups of fibers and cells that “connect” the framework of the body and literally hold it together. Their functions include cushioning, protecting, supporting, insulating and strengthening the body’s tissues and organs. Examples of connective tissue are tendons, ligaments, cartilage, blood, bone, and the dermis of the skin. Because connective tissues exist in so many structures of the body, disorders of these tissues may involve a variety of symptoms, including pain and dysfunction in different areas of the body.

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Connective tissue disorders are common, affecting approximately 500,000 in the United States alone. There are no significant differences in incidence among ethnic or age groups or between males and females. More than 200 types of heritable (passed from parents to their children) connective tissue disorders exist. Examples of heritable connective tissue disorders are Marfan’s syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (Source: NIAMS).

Some connective tissue disorders are the result of a dysfunction in the immune system, in which the immune system mistakenly targets connective tissue cells, resulting in inflammation. This type of connective tissue disorder is also an autoimmune disorder and includes such diseases as dermatomyositis (a condition characterized by muscle inflammation and skin rash), polymyositis (uncommon condition characterized by widespread muscle inflammation and weakness), rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of the blood vessels, which can lead to atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiac conditions), scleroderma, and systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues).

Connective tissue disorders can sometimes have serious complications. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as sweating and difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), chest pain or pressure, obvious dislocation or deformity of a joint, vomiting blood, or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for connective tissue disorders but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of connective tissue disorders?

The symptoms of connective tissue disorders vary depending on the tissue involved. Not all people with connective tissue disorders have symptoms, and the severity and type of symptoms vary among individuals. If a connective tissue disorder is heritable, you may not show symptoms until middle age, although in some conditions it is possible for symptoms to appear soon after birth.

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What causes connective tissue disorders?

Connective tissue disorders are caused by multiple factors, including injury, genetics or infection. However, there are some connective tissue disorders for which the cause is not known. The most common connective tissue disorders are caused by injury due to inflammation. Heritable connective tissue disorders are less common and include Marfan’s syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Autoimmune d... Read more about connective tissue disorderscauses


How are connective tissue disorders treated?

Treatment for connective tissue disorders begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have connective tissue disorders you will be asked questions about your symptoms and when they occur. You may also be asked to undergo diagnostic testing.

Connective tissue disorders require specific regimens to treat and manage symptoms. Due to the i... Read more about connective tissue disorderstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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