Mixed connective tissue disorder (MCTD) is a rare and complex autoimmune disease. Since MCTD has features of several autoimmune diseases it can be difficult to diagnose and treat. The faster the condition is diagnosed, the better the chances are of preventing permanent damage. Luckily, a rheumatologist can help. Read on to learn more about this disorder.
Since MCTD has features of lupus, polymyositis, and scleroderma, there can be a wide array of symptoms simultaneously. For example, like Lupus, MCTD can affect any organ system and the symptoms often come and go, making it harder to diagnose. People with lupus symptoms experience fatigue, joint pain, and inflammation of organs.
Another set of symptoms that people with MCTD may experience is polymyositis, which is the inflammation of muscles. The condition causes muscle weakness, which makes it difficult to lift objects, climb the stairs, and get up from the sitting position.
People with MCTD may also have symptoms consistent with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes widespread joint pain, fatigue, and joint deformities.
The diagnosis of MCTD is mostly based on symptoms and to some degree, blood work. It is common for people with autoimmune diseases to test negative even when they have obvious symptoms of one or more autoimmune diseases. Some tests that might be used to help diagnose MCTD are anti-nuclear antibody (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP). However, a positive test does not automatically diagnose any autoimmune disease, but it increases the chances of being diagnosed with one. Other tests that may be used are blood tests to determine systemic inflammation, such as SED rate or C-reactive protein.
Since there is no single treatment that can reduce MCTD, most of the treatments are symptom-based. Some people with serious MCTD may be prescribed steroids either long-term or to address an acute flare-up of symptoms. People with more lupus-like symptoms may be prescribed hydroxychloroquine, to address those symptoms. Sometimes immunosuppressant medications might be used for people with severe symptoms to reduce the risk of damage to organs. People with mild or moderate symptoms may not take daily treatments and mostly manage pain with OTC pain relievers.
MCTD is a complex disease and often difficult to treat because it has so many overlapping diseases. Addressing symptoms early and seeking treatment can reduce the instance of long-term disability and irreversible organ damage.
To learn more, contact a rheumatologist like those at Sarasota Arthritis Center.