Diagnosis

Your doctor is likely do these tests:

  • Physical exam to check for swollen hands and painful, swollen joints
  • Blood test, which can determine whether you have a certain antibody in your blood that is associated with mixed connective tissue disease

Treatment

There's no cure for mixed connective tissue disease. But medication can help manage the signs and symptoms.

You might need treatment only during flare-ups. If you have a more serious form of the disease, you might need continuous medication.

The type of medication prescribed depends on the severity of your disease and your symptoms. Medications can include:

  • Corticosteroids. Drugs, such as prednisone, can help prevent your immune system from attacking healthy cells and suppressing inflammation. Side effects can include mood swings, weight gain, high blood sugar, increased blood pressure, weakened bones and cataracts.
  • Antimalarial drugs. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) can treat mild mixed connective tissue disease and might prevent flare-ups.
  • Calcium channel blockers. Medications, such as nifedipine (Procardia) and amlodipine (Norvasc), help relax the muscles in the walls of your blood vessels and may be used to treat Raynaud's phenomenon.
  • Other immunosuppressants. Your doctor might prescribe other medications based on your specific signs and symptoms. For example, if they're similar to those of lupus, your doctor might recommend medications typically prescribed for people with lupus.
  • Pulmonary hypertension medications. Bosentan (Tracleer) or sildenafil (Revatio, Viagra) may be prescribed.

Your doctor is likely to monitor you closely for signs of pulmonary hypertension.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Other ways to control symptoms of mixed connective tissue disease include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), may help relieve the pain and inflammation if your condition is mild.
  • Protecting hands from cold. Wearing gloves and taking other measures to keep your hands warm can help prevent Raynaud's phenomenon.
  • Smoking cessation. Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, which can worsen the effects of Raynaud's phenomenon.
  • Reducing stress. Raynaud's phenomenon is often triggered by stress. Relaxation techniques — such as slowing and focusing on your breathing — can help reduce your stress levels.

Preparing for your appointment

You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in joint diseases (rheumatologist).

What you can do

  • Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason why you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down your key medical information, including other conditions.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major changes or stressors in your life.
  • Make a list of all your medications, vitamins or supplements.
  • Find out if anyone in your family has had similar problems.
  • Ask a relative or friend to accompany you, to help you remember what the doctor says.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • What treatments are available?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may make time to go over points you want to discuss in-depth. You may be asked:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve or worsen your symptoms?
April 03, 2015
References
  1. Bennett RM. Definition and diagnosis of mixed connective tissue disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 11, 2015.
  2. Ferri FF. Mixed connective tissue disease. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 12, 2015.
  3. Firestein GS, et al. Overlap syndromes. In: Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 12, 2015.
  4. Bennett RM. Clinical manifestations of mixed connective tissue disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 11, 2015.
  5. Bennett RM. Prognosis and treatment of mixed connective tissue disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 11, 2015.
  6. Mixed connective tissue disease. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/gard/7051/mixed-connective-tissue-disease/resources/1. Accessed Feb. 12, 2015.
  7. Tani C, et al. The diagnosis and classification of mixed connective tissue disease. Journal of Autoimmunity. 2014;48-49:46.
  8. AskMayoExpert. What are the clinical features of mixed connective tissue disease? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  9. Ungprasert P, et al. Cardiac involvement in mixed connective tissue disease: A systematic review. International Journal of Cardiology. 2014;171:236.

Mixed connective tissue disease