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Relieving Symptoms of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

After 15 years of strange illnesses and odd symptoms and multiple autoimmune diseases happening to my body I have been diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease and Adrenal Insufficiency (Addison's Disease).

Mixed what now? That is the usual response I get when I tell people what I have, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD for short) is a rare disease that pretty much no one has heard of and don't even get me started with trying to explain what Addison's disease is.... and no it is not adrenal fatigue - but this article is about MCTD so if you want to read about Addison's Disease you can click here.

Below is some practical information about MCTD and some of the treatments - both medical and complimentary - that I use to control the illness and live a healthy happy life.

What is Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?

Mixed connective tissue disease has signs and symptoms of a combination of disorders — primarily lupus, scleroderma and polymyositis.

MCTD is sometimes referred to as an overlap disease.

In mixed connective tissue disease, the symptoms of the separate diseases usually don’t appear all at once. Instead, they tend to occur in sequence over several years, which can make diagnosis complicated.

The precise cause of MCTD isn’t known, it is an autoimmune disorder. In autoimmune disorders, your immune system — responsible for fighting off disease — mistakenly attacks healthy cells.In connective tissue diseases, your immune system attacks the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body.

Symptoms of MCTD include the following:

Early indications of mixed connective tissue disease can include but are not limited to the following

  • General feeling of being unwell. This malaise may be accompanied by increased fatigue and a mild fever.

  • Cold and numb fingers or toes (Raynaud’s phenomenon). In response to cold or stress, your fingers or toes might turn white and then purplish blue. After warming, the fingers or toes turn red.

  • Swollen fingers or hands. Some people experience swelling to the point where the fingers resemble sausages.

  • Muscle and joint pain. Joints may become deformed, like what occurs with rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Vacuities (Urticarial) or the Malar rash across the nose and cheeks, depending on what combination of diseases you have

Diagnosis: The following tests/examinations can be used to help with the diagnosis:

  • Physical exam to check for swollen hands and painful, swollen joints

  • Blood tests can determine certain antibody in your blood that is associated with mixed connective tissue disease

  • Imaging to check for damage to the joints or inflammation of muscles

  • Biopsy’s of the skin or organs if required.

Treatment:

There’s no cure for mixed connective tissue disease, however medication can help manage the signs and symptoms.

Treatment may only be needed during flare-ups, however for more serious forms of the disease, continuous medications such as immunosuppressants may be required. The type of medication prescribed depends on the severity of the disease and symptoms.

(Ref: Mayo Clinic)

Various other lifestyle changes and therapy’s

I have been through a plethora of medications to control my disease and currently take Methotrexate and Plaquenil to control the disease.

However, I also use many of the below more natural solutions to help relieve the symptoms.

  • Physical therapy: If you have muscle weakness, physical therapy can help improve your movements.

  • Massage: Gentle massage to relieve muscle spasms and pain.

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage: to help with swelling and muscle pain

  • Energy Healing: This has helped me accept my illness and work with all my treatments as a whole. I attend monthly reiki treatments and perform self reiki weekly

  • Mediation and Mindfulness: To still my mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety related to having a chronic illness and encourage self healing.

  • Cooling products: Can assist with the burning sensations some people experience with peripheral neuropathy; I use a cooling towel wrapped around both forearms at nighttime and I also have a local anaesthetic cream made up by my compounding chemist which provides amazing relief to the burning, itchy feet I experience.

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet: Nutritional and diet can have a huge impact on autoimmune disease however this is different for everyone. I myself have embarked on a Vegetarian and dairy free based eating plan which has helped me enormously however diet can be very hit and miss and sometimes it may not be of any help at all.

  • Reducing Stress: Flares are often triggered by stress. Relaxation techniques — Meditation, Emotional Functional Therapy (Tapping) getting out in nature, reading and gentle exercise (such as restorative yoga, where I barely even move but it feels amazing) are some of the ways that I use to reduce my stress.

  • Socialising with friends and family – even if this is the last thing I feel like doing, it is so important to stay connected.

  • Essential Oils: Essential oils may help relieve symptoms associated with mixed connective tissue disease, help you with your emotions, purify your home and help reduce toxic load in the following ways:

  • Relieve Nausea

  • Relieve muscle/Joint pain

  • Treat cuts, scrapes, or infections from neuropathy on hands and feet –

  • Purify the air in your environment using a diffuser

  • Alleviate stress, tension, or anxiety

  • Help you fall asleep at night

  • Reducing toxic load in your house hold

I use all of the above to compliment my medical treatment in my journey with autoimmune illness. I would never say any of my treatments work alone, its the combination of all the parts that enable me to live a happy, enriched and healthy life.

Capri Clark is the founder of Bayside Remedial Massage and Healing in Brisbane. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Nursing and a Diploma in Remedial Massage. Capri's gentle techniques bring a huge amount of care and skill to her treatments. If you would like to book in for a session with Capri, you can click here.