Connective Tissue Disorders/Diseases

Connective tissue disorders or diseases occur when the body’s connective tissues come under attack. The connective tissues hold cells together, forming a framework for the body. Connective tissues are made up of two main protein molecules, collagen and elastin. There are many types of collagen protein in varying amounts in each of the body’s tissues. Elastin can stretch and return to its original length, like a rubber band. Elastin is the major component of ligaments (tissues that attach bone to bone) and of skin. In people with connective tissue diseases, collagen and elastin commonly become injured by inflammation. Many connective tissue diseases feature abnormal immune system activity with inflammation in tissues. Some connective tissue diseases are due to genetic inheritance. These include Marfan syndrome (in which there may be tissue abnormalities in the heart, aorta, lungs, eyes and skeleton) and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (in which there may be loose, fragile skin or loose joints). Other connective tissue diseases occur for unknown reasons but may have weaker genetic factors that influence their development. They feature spontaneous overactivity of the immune system, which results in production of extra antibodies. These connective tissue diseases include systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, polymyositis, and dermatomyositis. Each of these can be diagnosed by examination and blood tests.

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