Understanding and Coping With Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

Nov 12, 2019

If you’ve been diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease, it’s normal to feel discouraged and uncertain of your future. You probably have a lot of questions and may feel anxious about your prognosis. However, if you understand disease, work closely with your rheumatologist, and take an active role in keeping your body healthy, you can cope with your condition.

What Is Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?

As an autoimmune disease, mixed connective tissue disease occurs when your immune system attacks the fibers that provide the support and framework for your body. Mixed connective tissue disease may be linked to a family history of the condition. However, the genetic connection of the disease remains uncertain.

It is sometimes referred to as an overlapping disease, as mixed connective tissue disease consists of symptoms found in a combination of rheumatological disorders, such as lupus, polymyositis, and scleroderma. Getting a diagnosis of mixed connective tissue disease can be a daunting process and may require numerous visits to your physician. This is because the symptoms of the various diseases do not show up all at once and occur over several years.

What Are the Symptoms of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?

Early symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease may begin in the hands. You may notice your fingers look puffy. Your fingertips may turn white and feel numb. This typically occurs when fingers are exposed to cold temperatures.

If mixed connective tissue disease progresses, it can begin to affect the major organs in the body, such as the lungs and the heart. Complications can lead to pulmonary hypertension and heart disease.

Mixed connective tissue disease can cause pain in your joints and muscles due to inflammation and swelling. You may see a rash that consists of reddish or brown patches over the knuckles of your fingers. You may feel unwell and experience fatigue and a low-grade fever at times.

What Are the Treatments for Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?

Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat mild cases of mixed connective tissue disease. Low doses of corticosteroids may also be used for mild cases. Moderate to severe illness are treated with corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs.

Corticosteroids may put you at a risk for fractures from the side effect of osteoporosis. Your doctor may recommend you take vitamin D or medications used to treat osteoporosis to keep your bones healthy. You may be prescribed drugs to prevent infection if you are taking immunosuppressant medication.

What Can I Do to Stay Healthy With Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?

The first step for staying healthy is to stay in touch with your rheumatologist, take all medications as prescribed, and keep your follow-up appointments. Get plenty of sleep and add mild exercise, such as walking, to your routine, as these may help to limit flare ups and keep symptoms under control.

If you have an autoimmune disease, a healthy diet can also help you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. Include fresh fruits and vegetables should in your daily meals. Lean meats and proteins may help to boost your energy levels.

Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh water and avoiding drinks loaded with sugar. If you feel anxious, eliminating caffeine in tea, coffee, and soft drinks may help you feel less tense. Ask your doctor if a vitamin or mineral supplement is advised.

Being diagnosed with connective tissue disease may feel overwhelming at first. Sharing your concerns with your rheumatologist, asking questions about connective tissue disease, and taking an active role in your health are all important as you learn how to manage your condition. Contact Sarasota Arthritis Center to discuss mixed connective tissue disease and how to cope with your condition.

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