How is mixed connective tissue disease treated (MCTD)?

Treatment for MCTD must be tailored to each particular patient, depending on the organs that are affected and how severe the condition is. Some patients may need treatment only during flare-ups, while others may require constant care.

Treatment considerations include the following:

  • Pulmonary hypertension is the most common cause of death in people with MCTD, and must be treated with antihypertensive medications.
  • People with a mild form of MCTD may not need treatment, or only low doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen), antimalarials, or low-dose corticosteroids (such as prednisone) to treat inflammation.
  • Higher doses of corticosteroids are often used to manage the signs and symptoms of moderate to severe MCTD. If major organs are affected, the patient may have to take immunosuppressants (to suppress the immune system).
  • MCTD patients are also at risk of developing heart disease, including an enlarged heart or pericarditis (inflammation around the heart). Patients may need regularly scheduled electrocardiograms to monitor the heart's condition.

What can be expected following treatment for mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)?

  • Long-term use of steroids can lead to side effects such as bone loss due to osteoporosis, tissue death due to lack of blood flow, muscle weakness, and infections. Patients must see their doctor on a regular basis to monitor and control these possible effects.
  • Women with MCTD who are thinking of becoming pregnant should first talk to their doctor. Pregnancy can increase flare-ups of the disease, and babies born to women with MCTD may suffer from low birth weight.
  • Patients who have a long-term, incurable condition such as MCTD should develop ways of dealing with their disease. This includes seeking advice from medical and mental health professionals; proper diet and exercise (if not overly fatigued); learning as much as possible about the disease; and joining a chronic illness support group.