Connective Tissue Disease
The human body is made up of trillions of cells. Recent findings suggest as many as 30 trillion cells combine to form the human body at any one time. That’s pretty much impossible to comprehend. But combine they do, and what beautiful forms we are! Have you ever thought how all those cells stay together so well? Well… Our intricate and amazing bodies contain special tissues (made up of proteins) known as ‘connective tissues’ (CTs), which act as a glue to hold everything together. Without connective tissue, we may just exist as one big blobby puddle on the floor!
As well as their glue-like property, CTs allow the tissues of the body to stretch and recoil… A little bit like an elastic band. Some common examples of proteins that make up the CTs in the body include ‘collagen’ and ‘elastin’ (you may have heard of these before). It is possible for a person to have a disease which directly affects the CTs of the body. Collectively these are known as connective tissues diseases (CTDs), or diseases of connective tissue. As connective tissue is found all over the body, nearly all of the body can be affected. CTDs may affect the skin, blood vessels, blood, muscles, fat, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and other joint-related tissues. Even the eye can be affected!
Types of CTD
There are two main types of CTD… Genetic and autoimmune. We’ll explain what these mean:
• Genetic: These types of diseases are inherited. This is usually because of a single mutated gene that is passed on from your parents to you.
• Autoimmune: These types of diseases occur because your body’s defence system (aka the immune system) views the CTs as foreign and attacks them. This results in a painful, inflammation-driven condition where a person regularly experiences redness, heat, swelling and pain in specific parts of their body.
Examples of genetic diseases of CT (with a little description of each) include:
• Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: Affects the collagen in our body, resulting in excessively stretchy skin, hyper-mobile joints and abnormal scar tissue formation. There are over ten forms of this condition.
• Marfans syndrome: Affects fibrillin (a protein) in the body, resulting in longer bones and thin and long fingers and toes. People with Marfans are usually very tall and slender.
• Osteogenesis Imperfecta: Another condition that affects collagen, resulting in brittle bones, weak and thin skin, loose ligaments and a lower than average muscle mass.
Examples of autoimmune diseases of CT include:
• Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): The body attacks the membranes that hold the joints together resulting in pain, stiffness, degeneration and destruction of joints throughout the body. RA typically affects the small joints of the hands and feet.
• Sjogren’s syndrome: A disease which typically leaves a person with an excessively dry mouth and eyes. People also regularly experience joint pain.
• Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE): A condition that causes inflammation of the skin, internal organs and joints. Other symptoms include mouth ulcers, heart, lung and kidney problems, hair loss and mental health issues.
It is useful to point out there are many other CTDs. Having one CTD means you are more likely to have other CTDs as well.
So where does my osteo come into the equation? Being the holistic practitioners we are, we can help in many ways. People with CTDs regularly need help with joint range of motion, as well as an exercise program to help strengthen the body. Treatment and exercise need to be carefully planned out with CTDs, so having someone with experience to help you manage a potentially difficult condition is always handy. We can also help to educate you on what the diseases are, and how they affect you to ensure you have the correct self-help strategies in place.
Have you been diagnosed with a CTD? If so, get in touch today for an appointment. We’d love to be a part of your team!
1. Healthline. 2018. Diseases of connective tissue, from genetic to autoimmune. [Online]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/connective-tissue-disease#types. [Accessed 16 Dec 2020]
2. Genetic and rare diseases information centre. 2014. Mixed connective tissue disease. [Online]. Available from: https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/7051/mixed-connective-tissue-disease. [Accessed 16 Dec 2020]
3. Science Direct. 2019. Connective tissue disease. [Online]. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/connective-tissue-disease. [Accessed 16 Dec 2020]
4. Healthline. 2018. How many cells are in the human body? Fast facts. [Online]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/number-of-cells-in-body. [Accessed 16 Dec 2020]