General Practice 2022

4 types of collagen diseases: symptoms, causes and treatment

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4 types of collagen diseases: symptoms, causes and treatment
4 types of collagen diseases: symptoms, causes and treatment

Collagenosis, also known as collagen disease, is characterized by a group of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that damage the body's connective tissue, which is tissue formed by fibers, such as collagen, and is responsible for functions such as filling the spaces between organs, providing support, as well as helping to defend the body.

Alterations caused by collagenosis can affect various organs and body systems, such as skin, lungs, blood vessels and lymphatic tissues, for example, and produce mainly dermatological and rheumatological signs and symptoms, which include joint pain, injuries on the skin, changes in blood circulation or mouth and dry eyes.

Some of the main collagen diseases are diseases such as:

1. Lupus

It is the main autoimmune disease, which causes damage to organs and cells due to the action of autoantibodies, and is more common in young women, although it can occur in anyone. Its cause is still not completely known, and this disease usually develops slowly and continuously, with symptoms that can be mild to severe, which varies from person to person.

Signs and symptoms: Lupus can cause a wide variety of clinical manifestations, from localized to widespread throughout the body, which include skin patches, oral ulcers, arthritis, kidney changes, blood disorders, inflammation of the lungs and heart.

Learn more about what lupus is and how to identify it.

2. Scleroderma

It is a disease that causes accumulation of collagen fibers in the body, the cause of which is still unknown, and mainly affects the skin and joints, and can also affect the blood circulation and other internal organs, such as lungs, heart, kidneys. and gastrointestinal tract.

Signs and symptoms: there is usually thickening of the skin, which becomes more rigid, shiny and with circulatory difficulties, which worsens slowly and continuously. When it affects internal organs, in its diffuse type, it can cause breathing difficulties, digestive changes, in addition to compromising the functions of the heart and kidneys, for example.

Better understand the symptoms of the main types of scleroderma and how to treat them.

3. Sjögren's Syndrome

It is another type of autoimmune disease, characterized by the infiltration of defense cells in glands of the body, hindering the production of secretion by the lacrimal and salivary glands. This disease is more common in middle-aged women, but it can appear in anyone, and can appear alone or in conjunction with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, vasculitis or hepatitis, for example.

Signs and symptoms: dry mouth and eyes are the main symptoms, which can slowly and progressively worsen, causing redness, burning and a feeling of sand in the eyes or difficulty for swallowing, talking, increased tooth decay and a burning sensation in the mouth. Symptoms elsewhere in the body are rarer, but may include tiredness, fever, and joint and muscle pain, for example.

Better understand how to identify and diagnose Sjögren's syndrome.

4. Dermatomyositis

It is also a type of autoimmune disease that attacks and compromises the muscles and skin. When it affects only the muscles, it can also be known as polymyositis. Its cause is unknown, and it can occur in people of all ages.

Signs and symptoms: it is common to have muscle weakness, more common in the trunk, making it difficult to move the arms and pelvis, such as combing the hair or sitting/standing up.However, any muscle can be affected, causing difficulties in swallowing, moving the neck, walking or breathing, for example. Skin lesions include reddish or purplish patches and scaling that can get worse in the sun.

Learn more details on how to identify and treat dermatomyositis.

How to confirm the diagnosis

To diagnose collagenosis, in addition to clinical evaluation, the doctor may request blood tests that identify inflammation and antibodies present in these diseases, such as FAN, Mi-2, SRP, Jo-1, Ro/SS-A or La/SS-B, for example. Biopsies or analyzes of tissue with inflammation may also be necessary.

How to treat collagenosis

Treatment of collagen disease, like any autoimmune disease, depends on its type and severity, and should be guided by a rheumatologist or dermatologist. It usually involves the use of corticosteroids, such as Prednisone or Prednisolone, in addition to other immunosuppressants or more potent immunity regulators, such as Azathioprine, Methotrexate, Cyclosporine or Rituximab, for example, as a way to control immunity and reduce its effects on the body.

Furthermore, some measures such as sun protection to avoid skin lesions, and eye drops or artificial saliva to reduce the dryness of the eyes and mouth, may be alternatives to reduce symptoms.

Collagenosis has no cure, however science has sought to develop more modern therapies, based on the control of immunity with immunotherapy, so that these diseases can be controlled more effectively.

Why it happens

There is still no clear cause for the emergence of the group of autoimmune diseases that cause collagenosis. Although they are related to the wrong and excessive activation of the immune system, it is not known exactly what causes this situation.

It is very likely that there are genetic mechanisms and even environmental ones, such as lifestyle and eating habits, as the cause of these diseases, however, science still needs to better determine these suspicions through further studies.

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