By definition, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease pertains to a systemic autoimmune disorder that does not meet the criteria of most connective tissue disorders. This disorder does not fall under any of the most common connective tissue disorders hence its name Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder.
Normally, the immune system serves as the bodys protection against bacteria and other harmful organisms. In an autoimmune disease as in the case of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, the immune system functions abnormally. Instead of providing protection, it attacks itself specifically the various connective tissues of the body.
Examples of connective tissues are the muscles, joints, skin, and cartilage. These are the common sites of attack by connective tissue disorders. But there are times though that complications may arise that involve other parts of the body like the lungs, heart, eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, bone marrow and nervous system.
In the United States, there are a number of cases that exhibit symptoms of connective tissue disorder. However, some of the cases do not meet the criteria of a specific connective tissue disease. For this reason, they are usually tagged as patients suffering from Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease.
According to statistics, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease can affect anyone regardless of race but is more commonly seen in women and rarely in children. People who suffer from this disease are usually from ages 30 55 years old. Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease that does not progress to any specific connective tissue disease in 12 months usually remains as Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease for the next 10 years.
Speaking of its prognosis, people suffering from Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease have better prognosis compared to other people who have specific connective tissue disease. Even patients whose condition progressed to a specific connective tissue disease have better prognosis.
Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease Signs and Symptoms
Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease is characterized by several signs and symptoms that include:
- Joint Pains
- Joint Swelling
- Muscle Weakness
- Lymph Node Swelling
- Muscle Pain
- Weight Loss
- Low-grade Fever
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Shortness of Breath
- Dryness of Eyes and Mouth
- Discoloration of Hands and Feet upon exposure to cold temperatures
The exact cause of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease continues to be a mystery to the medical world. All that is known today is that it is an autoimmune disease. There are currently studies being made in order to know more about the disease.
With regards to its pathophysiology, the picture remains unclear. Studies of previous cases of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder suggest that it is usually preceded by the presence of auto-antibodies. No apparent tissue damage or other diseases were known to have been the precursor of the illness.
Most of the researches that have been conducted concentrated on the abnormalities of the immune system specifically the T-cells and B-cells. Other factors like the environment, genetics and infections are also being taken into consideration.
As an idiopathic disease, it is quite difficult to diagnose Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. Most often than not, someone who is an expert in autoimmune diseases called a rheumatologist is needed to confirm diagnosis.
When diagnosing for Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, a lot of factors are being considered. Standard operating procedure includes a thorough physical examination and checking of the past medical history.
It has been established that checking the blood for signs of the disease cant be used as a basis for diagnosis. Because of this, it has been imperative to perform other laboratory procedures such as X-rays and CAT scans to check other organs of the body.
Treatment and Management
People suspected of having Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease are usually treated as outpatients. The therapy should be holistic with referral to a rheumatologist. A comprehensive health education about the disease and home care is also necessary so as to assist the patient in dealing with the illness.
Referrals to other specialized fields of medicines may be required in a number of cases. Occupational and physical therapies may also be needed – depending on the progress of the disease. Surgical interventions are not usually indicated. However, some cases may require such procedures for diagnosis or treatment of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease.
Physicians do not usually prescribe special dietary programs in the course of the treatment. Activity restrictions are also not included in the treatment regimen unless indicated by functional limitations brought about by Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease.
In addition, patients who are experiencing photosensitivity are advised to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight since ultra violet rays may cause exacerbations of the condition. If sun exposure is unavoidable, patients must wear protective clothing in order to minimize the effects.
Staying active through regular exercise is also a good way to keep the symptoms of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease at bay. Vitamin C supplements as well as other vitamins and minerals can also be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of the disease.
See Also: Lupus