Connective Tissue Diseases (CTDs)

Connective Tissue Diseases (CTDs)

What is connective tissue?

Connective tissue is tissue that binds organs together, holds organs in place, protects, supports or separates other tissues and organs, sheaths muscles and nerves, envelops the spinal cord, brain and protects the vital organs.

Connective tissues are the structural tissues in the body and are the most abundant type of tissue in the body. Bone, ligaments, tendons, fascia, cartilage, fat, bone marrow and blood are all considered connective tissues. Connective tissue are made of collagen and elastin.

What are connective tissue diseases?

Connective tissue diseases are a group of diseases that attack the connective tissues. They are characterized by the involvement of several organs and the presence of autoantibodies.

There are two main types of CTDs, inherited disorders including Marfan Syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome; and autoimmune CTDs which have a genetic predisposition that increases the risk of developing a CTD combined with environmental factors that can trigger the disease.

Here we are concerned with autoimmune CTDs. 

Some Types of autoimmune CTDs

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or Lupus) attacks heathy body tissues
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome is characterized by dry eye and dry mouth
  • Myositis is inflammation of the muscles
  • Scleroderma is a disease that causes hardening of the skin or muscles in local area
  • Systemic Sclerosis is scleroderma that affects the entire body and affects the internal organs
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

What are the CTDs symptoms?

Autoimmune CTDs are characterized by spontaneous increased immune system activity which causes inflammation of connective tissue in the body, and may involve the skin, bones, joints and internal organs. Common symptoms of CTDs are fatigue, fever, muscle and joint pain, and stiffness, and weakness. Each specific CTD also has its own symptoms.

How is a CTD diagnosed?

Symptoms, Physical exam, blood tests, x-rays and tests for autoantibodies and other tests specific to each type of CTD. Autoantibodies are a diagnostic biomarker of CTDs. In addition, C-reactive protein is a blood test that identifies inflammation.

Sometimes the symptoms are not well defined, and the diagnosis may be undifferentiated connective tissue disease or UCTD.  Some autoimmune CTDs have a classic or typical presentation as with SLE, RA etc., and each has certain blood test abnormalities, or autoantibodies.

How are CTDs treated?

Treatment varies depending on the type of CTD.

At Ortho Illinois we have a team of board-certified rheumatologists who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of connective tissue disorders. Our compassionate doctors will provide you with the most advanced and personalized care based on your needs, the latest research and clinical guidelines.

Ortho Illinois rheumatology services are available in Rockford for your convenience. Contact us to schedule a consultation and receive the correct diagnosis and treatment from our renowned physicians.