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What Are the Different Types of Ligament Diseases?

Woman wearing a splint for a torn ligament in her finger.
A patient may need an MRI to diagnose a ligament disease.
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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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There are many different diseases that can affect the ligaments. Ligament diseases, also known as connective tissue diseases, are classified into one of three types. Diseases that target ligaments are collagen-vascular, genetic, or degenerative. Most connective tissue diseases are auto-immune, which means that the immune system is triggered and causes inflammation that leads to damage in the body’s connective tissue.

Collagen-vascular causes of ligament diseases cause repeated instances of inflammation. The chronic inflammation damages ligaments because the fibers are continuously stretched. This causes weakness as the collagen that allows ligaments to stretch becomes so stretched that it loses elasticity. Collagen and ligaments are most commonly damaged in this type of connective tissue disease as a result of an abnormality in blood vessels. Rheumatic fever, systemic sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosis are examples of collagen-vascular connective tissue diseases.

Genetic ligament diseases are types of connective tissue diseases that are inherited. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome are two common inherited connective tissue diseases. In patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, abnormal genes cause a production of proteins that destroy collagen and lead to weakened ligaments. Patients with Marfan syndrome have connective tissues that are loose and do not function properly.

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Degenerative ligament diseases are the types of connective tissue diseases that take time to show symptoms and progress with time as well. Scurvy is an example of this category. This disease results from a vitamin C deficiency. The lack of vitamin C causes a reduction in the amount of collagen that the body produces. Without the collagen, ligaments can be damaged easily.

Collagen is like a glue that holds the fibers of ligaments together. It also allows ligaments to stretch as necessary for the body’s movements. When collagen is affected by ligament diseases, the ligaments are more vulnerable. This vulnerability can lead to an injured ligament.

Vulnerable ligaments and weak or absent collagen can present many problems for a person who has a ligament disease. Although a sore ligament is due to a strained ligament, it is also possible that the pain can result from a torn ligament. In extreme cases of damage, such as a ruptured ligament, ligament surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.

Diagnosing ligament disease can be difficult. A person may suffer from a recurring ligament problem, such as tears, without any logical reason. Blood tests can check for some types of connective tissue disease, and imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, can provide pictures for doctors to see ligaments without relying on unnecessary or invasive procedures. Based on the type of ligament disease and each individual patient’s symptoms, doctors can provide ligament treatments to deal with the symptoms and problems that may occur.

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