What is the link between lupus and connective tissue disease? The answer is that lupus is a connected tissue disease. “Connective tissue is any type of biological tissue with an extensive extracellular matrix that supports, binds together, and protects organs” according to Wikipedia.com. In other words it is any disease that affects the human connective tissue. Most connective tissue diseases feature abnormal immune system activity with inflammation of the tissues that result from an autoimmunity (autoimmunity is when one’s immune system attacks its own cells). Lupus is an autoimmune disease such as this.

Aside from lupus connective tissue disease, there are a number of similar connective tissue diseases. These include other autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and Sjogren’s syndrome. There are also heritable connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danolos syndrome, Osteogenesis imperfect, and Stickler syndrome. Scurvy is also considered a connective tissue disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are over 200 disorders that impact connective tissue and they are sometimes simply the result of infection or injury.

 

Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

 

Lupus connective tissue disease and other types of connective tissue diseases can sometimes be present in combination with one another. When the signs and symptoms of one or more of these disorders are present it is referred to mixed connective tissue disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, the primary types of connective tissue disorders that overlap are:

Lupus – this is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.

Scleroderma – this is a connective tissue disease which involves changes in the skin, blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs.

Polymyositis – this is a persistent inflammatory muscle disease which causes the skeletal muscles to weaken.

The signs and symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease usually don’t appear all at once. This makes diagnosis difficult. Early on symptoms often involve the hands. The fingers may swell immensely and the fingertips may turn white and go numb. Other symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease may include a general feeling of being unwell and muscle and/or joint pain.

Mixed connective tissue disease, especially those which involve lupus connective tissue disease, can lead to damage to other parts of the body, including organs such as the lungs, heart, and kidneys. If you have any combination of the symptoms listed above, or you have any symptoms which are bothersome and/or interfere with your daily routine, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially true if you have already been diagnosed with lupus connective tissue disease or any other type of connected tissue disease.