Collagen vascular disease refers to a group of conditions that cause chronic inflammation in your connective tissues. Many of these diseases are also autoimmune diseases. Rarely, you may have a genetic collagen vascular disease. There’s no cure for these diseases, but treatment can help manage symptoms.
Collagen vascular disease refers to a group of conditions that cause chronic (long-lasting) inflammation in your connective tissues. Connective tissues hold your bones, muscles and ligaments together. Collagen is one type of connective tissue that provides structure for your skin, bones and joints.
Another name for collagen vascular disease is connective tissue disease. The most common types of collagen vascular diseases are autoimmune diseases. These diseases cause your immune system to mistakenly target healthy tissues, causing inflammation.
Many collagen vascular diseases are autoimmune diseases, such as:
You may also have a genetic collagen vascular disease. Genetic disorders occur because of mutations (changes) in specific genes. Examples of genetic collagen vascular diseases include:
Mixed collagen vascular disease is when you have symptoms of multiple types of collagen vascular diseases. Symptoms may be intermittent (they come and go) over several years. Mixed collagen vascular disease may cause:
Anyone can get collagen vascular disease. Women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) may be more likely to have certain types of collagen vascular disease, such as lupus, RA or scleroderma. Collagen vascular diseases are also more likely to develop during your 30s or 40s.
Experts don’t know what causes autoimmune collagen vascular diseases. Some researchers think they may develop because certain bacteria, viruses or drugs lead to changes in your immune system. Some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, tend to run in families.
Inherited collagen vascular diseases occur because of gene mutations. You may inherit the gene mutation from one or both of your parents. Or it may happen for no known reason.
Collagen vascular disease symptoms can vary depending on what specific condition you have. In general, many collagen vascular diseases cause symptoms such as:
Some collagen vascular diseases may also increase your vulnerability to ultraviolet (UV) light. For example, in people with lupus, sun damage or a sunburn can lead to severe, blistered rashes similar to an allergic reaction.
To diagnose collagen vascular disease, your provider discusses your symptoms. They physically examine you for signs of connective tissue problems. They may examine your skin, joints or muscles.
You may also have tests during a collagen vascular disease diagnosis, such as:
There’s no cure for collagen vascular diseases. But you may manage symptoms with treatment. Common treatments for connective tissue diseases include:
Most people don’t need surgery to treat a connective tissue disease. If you have a condition that has caused severe joint damage, your provider may recommend joint replacement surgery. This treatment is more common in people with certain connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
There’s no way to prevent collagen vascular disease. Because collagen vascular diseases cause chronic inflammation, you may take measures to reduce inflammation, such as:
Collagen vascular diseases are lifelong conditions. But you can take many steps at home to reduce symptoms or complications. You may:
You may also want to ask your healthcare provider:
Without treatment, restricted blood flow can lead to heart and organ problems. If you have a type of collagen vascular disease that causes blood vessel narrowing, your provider can give you treatments to decrease inflammation and improve blood flow.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Collagen vascular diseases are conditions that cause chronic inflammation. Many autoimmune diseases are collagen vascular diseases. Some rare types of collagen vascular diseases are genetic. Collagen vascular diseases may cause fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain or skin rashes. There’s no cure for collagen vascular diseases. Your provider can offer treatment options to lessen symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/26/2022.
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