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Connective Tissue Diseases

Connective Tissue Diseases (CTDs) are a group of closely related multisystem disease conditions with many overlapping clinical features. The diverse and overlapping symptoms, particularly early in the course of the disease, can make diagnosis challenging. Prompt diagnosis and referral to specialist care is essential to prevent avoidable organ damage and death.

Connective Tissue Diseases

CTDs: A Summary

CTDs are generally rare diseases, although prevalence differs extensively. Sjögren's Syndrome is the most common CTD, with prevalence that varies from 0.5% to 3% within different populations.1

CTDs include:

  • Sjögren's Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Systemic Sclerosis (SSc)
  • Polymyositis/Dermatomyositis (PM/DM)
  • Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD)

A common symptom of a CTD is nonspecific fatigue. Depending on which CTD is present, and how active it is, a wide variety of symptoms may occur. These include fevers, muscle joint pain and stiffness, weakness, and many other symptoms. See below for a brief overview of symptoms on each particular disease:1,2

  • Sjögren's Syndrome: reacts to the tissue in glands that produce moisture, such as tear and salivary glands. It is a chronic, inflammatory disease that often progresses to a more complex, systemic disorder that can affect other tissues and organs in the body such as joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and the intestinal tract.1,2

  • SLE: the skin, joints, blood vessels, and internal organs, especially the kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain.1,2

  • SSc: progressively affects the skin, blood vessels, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, heart, and musculoskeletal tissues.1,2

  • PM/DM: Polymyositis causes muscle weakness, usually in the muscles closest to the trunk of your body. Dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness, plus a skin rash. General symptom of myositis: fatigue after walking or standing tripping or falling, trouble swallowing or breathing.1,2

Valuable Tools to Aid in Diagnosis

Serological tests reveal that CTDs are associated with a variety of cellular antibodies. Certain CTDs are characterized by specific antibodies. Diagnostic tests, in conjunction with a thorough clinical history, can be used to help diagnose CTDs earlier in the course of a patient's disease.

Discover how serological tests can aid in the diagnosis of CTDs, follow the course of the disease, and why they are such a valuable tool for your practice.

Allergy Testing


Diagnostic tests give reliable results that support primary care physicians as well as specialists in providing optimal patient management.

  1. Gaubitz M. Epidemiology of Connective Tissue Disease. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2006;4 (Suppl 3):iii3-4.
  2. Shoenfeld Y, Meroni PL. The General Practice Guide to Autoimmune Diseases. Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers; 2012