Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

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Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) is a rare autoimmune disorder that causes signs and symptoms of several other connective tissue diseases. People with MCTD experience features of three other diseases — lupus, scleroderma and polymyositis. For this reason, mixed connective tissue disease is sometimes referred to as an overlap disease.

Signs and symptoms of these three other diseases usually don't appear all at once. This makes diagnosing MCTD somewhat complicated. Often people with MCTD are first diagnosed with lupus. As the disease progresses and other signs and symptoms become apparent, the diagnosis is corrected.

MCTD occurs most often in women and is usually diagnosed in young adults in their 20s and 30s. However, children have occasionally been diagnosed with MCTD.

MCTD doesn't have a unique set of signs and symptoms. Instead, people with mixed connective tissue disease usually have signs and symptoms of lupus, scleroderma and polymyositis, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Swollen fingers
  • Mild fever
  • Raynaud's phenomenon — blood vessel spasms that interrupt blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears and nose

  • Causes:
    Doctors don't know what causes MCTD. The disease is part of a larger group of diseases known as autoimmune disorders. When you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system — responsible for fighting off disease — mistakes normal, healthy cells for intruders. As a result, healthy tissue in your body is damaged, causing signs and symptoms of disease.

    It isn't clear what causes your immune system to attack your body. Doctors believe a complex mix of viruses, chemicals and genetic factors may be at play.

    No cure exists for MCTD, although treatments can help manage the signs and symptoms of the disease. Your treatment may vary from another person's because your signs and symptoms may be different.

    While no standard treatment exists, the most common treatment for MCTD is corticosteroids, such as prednisone.

    People with mild forms of MCTD may not need any treatment. You may require treatment only during flares or you may require constant medication. Work with your doctor to ensure that your signs and symptoms are adequately controlled.

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