Connective tissue disease symptoms include joint pain, muscle weakness, and swelling of the extremities. Individual connective tissue diseases can involve other warning signs that may be helpful when developing a diagnosis and creating a treatment plan. Patients with connective tissue disease have a variety of treatment options, depending on the disease, how severe it is, and when it is diagnosed. Many of these diseases are not curable and the treatment focus is on appropriate management.
These disorders all involve dysfunction in the connective tissues of the body, due to things like breakdowns of collagen. Inherited connective tissue disorders include Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, and pseudoxanthoma elasticum. People can also acquire diseases like scurvy, polymyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. The connective tissue disease symptoms vary, depending on the exact disorder and its severity, and may onset at any time during a patient's life, from infancy to old age.
Patients with connective tissue disease commonly experience joint pain, soreness, muscle weakness, easy bruising, and loss of sensation in their extremities. They may have trouble chewing and swallowing, and can develop Raynaud's phenomenon, where the blood vessels supplying blood to the hands and feet spasm, causing restrictions of blood flow. Connective tissue disease symptoms commonly include fatigue and a general feeling of malaise. Some patients have lung problems as a result of declines in lung function caused by breakdowns of connective tissue.
When a doctor identifies connective tissue disease symptoms, the patient can be evaluated for additional symptoms that may help narrow down a diagnosis. A family history of disease can be relevant. Muscle biopsies may be taken to look for tell-tale signs of disease. This information is pulled together to determine what kinds of treatments are most appropriate, including anti-inflammatory drugs, pain management medications, and physical therapy to develop joint strength and flexibility.
Connective tissue disease symptoms sometimes onset very slowly and may be mistaken for other things. People feeling tired or run down may not connect their feelings of illness with low-level joint stiffness and muscle weakness. People who notice significant changes in their fitness levels, energy, and feeling of well being may want to ask to see a doctor for a physical exam and evaluation to explore possible causes. Failure to identify a problem on an initial examination also does not mean a patient is necessarily well; sometimes a diagnosis of an issue takes time because the symptoms are vague and undifferentiated at first.