The term collagen vascular disease describes a group of diseases that affect your connective tissue. We all have collagen in our bodies. Collagen is a connective tissue that acts as a support system for your skin. Connective tissue holds muscles, ligaments, and bones together. Another name for collagen vascular disease is connective tissue disease. Some cases of collagen vascular disease may be autoimmune while others may be heritable.
This article focuses on the autoimmune forms of collagen vascular diseases.
It is important to note that some forms of collagen vascular disease affect your skin, joints, blood vessels, and other important organs. The symptoms vary according to the disease.
The following are examples of autoimmune collagen vascular diseases:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- temporal arteritis
On the other hand, examples of hereditary collagen disease include:
- osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease
- Marfan’s syndrome
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
What causes collagen vascular disease?
Collagen vascular disease is primarily an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is caused by an attack of the immune system on the body’s healthy tissue. Why this happens is not fully understood. For people suffering from collagen vascular disease, their immune system triggers an inflammation cascade in their collagen and joints.
The prevalence of some collagen vascular diseases, such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, are higher in women than in men. It mostly affects adults in their 30s and 40s. Lupus may affect children below the age of 15, but it is most prevalent in people above 15.
Symptoms of collagen vascular disease
Recall that there are different types of collagen vascular disease. So, the symptoms are specific to each type. Nevertheless, most forms of the disease share several general symptoms. Symptoms that are generally experienced by people with collagen vascular disease include:
- Muscle weakness
- Aches in the body
- Skin rash
- Joint pain
Symptoms of lupus
The symptoms of lupus are unique to each patient. General symptoms of lupus may include:
Lupus patients may experience prolonged remission without symptoms. There may be flareups during stressful periods or after being exposed to sunlight for a long time.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
At least 1.3 million adults in the US are affected by rheumatoid arthritis. The pain and stiffness of this condition is caused by inflammation of the connective tissue between the joints. Patients may also experience chronic dry mouth and dry eye problems. Inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels and the heart may occur as well.
Symptoms of scleroderma
Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that can affect the:
- Digestive tract
Scleroderma is characterized by symptoms such as hardening and thickening of the skin, open sores, and rashes. You may have a tight feeling on your skin as if it is being stretched. Some areas may also feel lumpy. This condition can also cause:
Symptoms of temporal arteritis
Also known as giant cell arteritis, temporal arteritis is an inflammation of the large arteries of the human body. The inflammation mainly affects arteries in the head. The prevalence is higher in adults over 70 years of age. Common symptoms include:
- Jaw pain
- Scalp sensitivity
- Loss of vision
How can collagen vascular disease be treated?
The treatment for this condition varies according to your condition. But then, it is worth mentioning that most forms of connective tissue diseases are treated with immunosuppressant and corticosteroid medications.
Corticosteroids have anti-inflammatory functions. That means, they reduce inflammation in your body. Corticosteroids also help to restore the normal functioning of your immune system. It is important to note that corticosteroids have a couple of side effects, such as mood changes and weight gain. Some people may experience a rise in their blood sugar levels when taking this medication.
As the name implies, immunosuppressants lower immune responses or suppress the immune system. If your immune response is reduced, your body won’t be attacked as much as it would if your immune system function was not suppressed. But on the other hand, suppressing your immunity puts you at a higher risk of falling sick. You must stay away from people who have the flu or colds.
Moderate exercises or physical therapy is also helpful in the treatment of collagen vascular disease. With various range of motion exercises, you can regain your mobility. Physical therapy also reduces pain in the muscle and joints.
The outlook varies from person to person. Also, it depends on the specific condition. But they do share something in common which is: all autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions. They don’t have a cure and must be managed throughout your life.
Your healthcare provider will create a plan of treatment that will help you manage your symptoms.