Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease

Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease is a condition which affects body organs and muscles in a number of way, yet has not developed to the stage where physicians can easily pinpoint the specific disease.

Sometimes referred to as Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD), Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD) is similar in its design. Both conditions are chronic inflammatory autoimmune diseases, involving a disorder of the body's connective tissues. With Mixed CTD, there is evidence of several different connective tissue diseases, all existing at the same time within the same body. With Undifferentiated CTD, there may be multiple conditions, related or not, but, at its base lies a connective tissue disease that has not developed to the point of being easily identified.

Connective tissue diseases may be, or may involve into, any combination of Lupus, Scleroderma, Polymyositis, Vasculitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, and Fibromyalgia, as well as other autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are basically those where the body produces abnormal cells (Anti-nuclear antibodies, or ANA), which turn on the body itself, attacking major body organs and tissues, in their inability to distinguish between invading infections and healthy cells. Autoimmune diseases and conditions, then, wreak havoc on a body in multiple ways, from the direct effects of the disease on particular parts of the body, to the body's inability to fight off standard body invaders. With any autoimmune disease or condition, a person must deal with multiple symptoms and problems, as well as having to battle a fragile immune system.

With more easily identifiable connective tissue diseases, recognizable factors have been found in the body, through various lab tests, which allow physicians to pinpoint a particular disease or condition. With Undifferentiated CTD, there is the presence of some type of connective tissue disease, but it is undeveloped to the point of tagging it with a set of identifiers so that physicians know exactly what they are dealing with. Instead, physicians and researchers say, Undifferentiated CTD is simply a connective tissue disease "in the making."

It may be that Undifferentiated CTD may stay in the same stage in which it is first found, never fully developing. And, in some cases, researchers say, the disease may even reverse itself. However, in the majority of cases, an Undifferentiated CTD is usually accompanied by an assortment of other connective tissue diseases and/or autoimmune conditions. And, as the body continues to fight against itself, it is left weakened so that it has great difficulty in fighting off even the simplest of viruses and infections. In the long run, many Undifferentiated CTD's will further develop into a more readily identified condition, such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or any number of other ugly systemic rheumatic diseases and/or autoimmune conditions.

One of the reasons Undifferentiated CTD is so difficult to pinpoint is that many of the Rheumatic diseases share similar characteristics, both in their symptoms and in their lab test results. This is why physicians are hesitant to put a definite tag on something which could turn around and evolve into something completely different.

Whether Undifferentiated or Mixed, connective tissue diseases can affect the body in a number of areas, including joints, skin, lungs, nervous system, skin, kidneys, heart, and nervous system. Symptoms and signals of Undifferentiated CTD may be different from one person to the next, although many seem to share a mix of similar autoimmune conditions. And, because of the similar appearances and effects, many connective tissue diseases and autoimmune conditions are often misdiagnosed. With diseases that can range from mild to life threatening, a missed diagnosis can cause irreparable damage, and sometimes a more hastened death.

A connective tissue disease diagnosis is not a death sentence in and of itself, though some conditions can become life-threatening. Many people suffer from these conditions for years, able to live a full life with a wide range of activities. These people may, at some point in the future, see an increase in symptoms and a worsening of their disease. Other people may live to a ripe old age, never suffering serious complications of their conditions. But the key to the best possible outcome is as early a diagnosis as possible, with the proper - and correct - diagnosis and treatments.

As connective tissue diseases may exist and linger for many years, it may be difficult for a person to recognize that a definite problem exists. Especially when a patient hears a doctor say that the symptoms and problems are "nothing" or simply all in the head of the patient, a correct diagnosis may take even longer to come about. Some symptoms to be aware of include swelling in the joints, joint and muscle pains, digestive problems, Raynaud's (extremities suffering extreme cold, turning white when cold), sleep problems, and usually an extreme fatigue. Some people say the symptoms are much like having a bad case of the flu. And, as with other autoimmune conditions, the immune system does not usually work properly, causing a person to suffer from more than the usual infections and things.

As these symptoms are so common in a wide range of health problems, it is absolutely necessary for a person to seek competent health care. Often, a rheumatologist, the leading researchers and specialists in this field, should make a correct diagnosis. And, though it is easy for someone to be diagnosed simply as being depressed, depression may, and often does, accompany connective tissue diseases and autoimmune conditions, just as depression may well result from many other chronic health problems.

The causes of Undifferentiated CTD are unknown, especially as it is not one of the more common diseases. Much of the current knowledge about Undifferentiated CTD has come from the knowledge base of similar or related diseases and conditions.

Though certainly a serious condition, and potentially life-threatening, Undifferentiated CTD is survivable. There are treatments available, relying on many of the same treatments for other connective tissue diseases and autoimmune conditions. There may be a need for several types of medications, however, needed to address the different symptoms and problems related to the disease. The first step, then, in correctly identifying and addressing the specific condition and its problems, is to seek the proper health care.

With a good doctor, the proper diagnosis and care, an Undifferentiated (or Mixed) Connective Tissue Disease can be dealt with.

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