Connective tissue is a major tissue in our body which is responsible for forming the structure of the body parts. It can be considered as a tissue that forms the framework or matrix of the body. It is made up of two proteins, collagen and elastin. Collagen is a glue-like protein which is mainly concerned with the tautness of the skin. Elastin is responsible for stretching and bouncing back of ligaments as well as skin. Certain immune disorders affect the working of these connective tissues and damage collagen and elastin. Collagen vascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term that covers a range of these diseases. In a way, it is a misnomer, as this disease also affects structures other than the vascular structures and molecules other than collagen.
Since, collagen vascular diseases is a group of diseases, there are no unique symptoms. The diagnosis is based on the symptoms pertaining to any of the collagen diseases that come under this term. Generally, following symptoms are associated with these diseases.
- Joint inflammation
- Persistent fatigue
List of CVD
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease which affects the joints of the body. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the healthy tissues of the body are misinterpreted as foreign bodies and attacked are by its own immune system. The initial symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are morning stiffness, fatigue, swelling of joints, etc., which later manifest into excruciating pain in joints. There is no treatment that can reverse the effects of this disease. However, the pain and swelling may be controlled with the help of medications and physiotherapy exercises. Also, surgery may be advised in extreme cases.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease which mostly surfaces after an infection. The body's immunity providing cells fail to distinguish between the infection causing organism and a body protein that may resemble the organism. As a result, it starts attacking its own proteins. There is no cure for SLE, and it may affect people of age 10 to 50. In fact, this is a common type of CVD in children. Also, women are 9 times more likely to get affected by this disease than men. In addition to this, people of African-American origin and Asian ethnicity are more susceptible to this disease.
Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma)
This is a diffuse connective tissue disease which is characterized by changes in the appearance of the skin, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, and internal organs. It also involves excess collagen deposition in the skin. The cause of this disease is unknown and it mostly affects people in the age group of 30 to 50. The severity of scleroderma ranges from mild to severe. Death may occur in cases involving gastrointestinal organs or other vital organs such as kidneys or heart.
This is also an autoimmune disorder in which the muscles of the body get inflamed. Although, the cause of this disease is unknown, a viral infection is found to be somehow related with this disease. People in the age group of 40 to 60, or children between age 5 to 15 are likely to get affected by dermatomyositis. Susceptibility of this disease is more in women than in men. The symptoms of this disease may appear suddenly or may take several months to evolve.
Polyarteritis nodosa is an autoimmune disorder which has severe consequences. The immune cells attack the arteries, leading to their inflammation. It mostly affects older people, and the symptoms of this disease depend upon the affected organ, which are mostly skin, heart, kidneys, and the nervous system.
Although, most diseases in this category have no permanent solution, they may be controlled with the help of certain medications.