- Rheumatoid Arthritis Slideshow Pictures
- Joint-Friendly Exercises to Reduce RA Pain Slideshow
- Take the RA Quiz
- Patient Comments: Connective Tissue Disease - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Connective Tissue Disease - Treatments
- Patient Comments: Connective Tissue Disease - Experience
- Patient Comments: Connective Tissue Disease - Signs and Symptoms
- Find a local Rheumatologist in your town
- What is a connective tissue disease?
- What causes connective tissue disease?
- What are symptoms and signs of a connective tissue disease?
- How are connective tissue diseases diagnosed?
- What are genetic risk factors for developing connective tissue disease?
- What autoimmune diseases are associated with connective tissue disease?
What is a connective tissue disease?
Connective tissue diseases are actually a group of medical diseases. A connective tissue disease is any disease that has the connective tissues of the body as a primary target of pathology. The connective tissues are the structural portions of our body that essentially hold the cells of the body together. These tissues form a framework, or matrix, for the body. The connective tissues are composed of two major structural protein molecules, collagen and elastin. There are many different types of collagen protein that vary in amount in each of the body's tissues. Elastin has the capability of stretching and returning to its original length, like a spring or rubber band. Elastin is the major component of ligaments (tissues that attach bone to bone) and skin. In patients with connective tissue diseases, it is common for collagen and elastin to become injured by inflammation.
Many connective tissue diseases feature abnormal immune system activity with inflammation in tissues as a result of an immune system that is directed against one's own body tissues (autoimmunity).
Diseases in which inflammation or weakness of collagen tends to occur are also referred to as collagen diseases. Collagen vascular disease is a somewhat antiquated term used to describe diseases of the connective tissues that typically include diseases that can be (but are not necessarily) associated with blood vessel abnormalities.
What causes connective tissue disease?
The specific causes of most connective tissue diseases are not known. However, there are genetic patterns that are considered to increase the risk for developing connective tissue diseases. It is likely that a combination of genetic risks and environmental factors are necessary for the development of connective tissue disease.