What is Collagen Vascular Disease?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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Collagen is a fibrous protein which acts as a glue to help keep the shape and structure of connective tissue, tendons, and bones. When the immune system malfunctions and changes homeostasis within the collagen, a condition known as collagen vascular disease can occur and result in a number of different symptoms and ailments. These can include rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, and scleroderma, as well as other autoimmune disorders that can affect the skin and joints. Common symptoms may include anemia and joint inflammation, and it is most often treated with anti-inflammatory medications to help ease symptoms and physical therapy to help regain the strength and integrity of the skin and underlying organs.

Systemic autoimmune disease is a synonym for collagen vascular disease and is caused by the disruption of a normal immune system, which later results in inflammation and abnormalities occurring to the skin, joints and tendons. An example of a condition caused by this disease includes rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. Early treatment can often delay joint destruction, and this treatment usually involves physical therapy, some medications and perhaps surgery. As with all autoimmune diseases, using methods of strengthening the immune system, such as exercise and avoiding foods with sugar and refined carbohydrates, may provide relief, especially if used early.


Scleroderma is another example of an autoimmune disease that falls under the term of collagen vascular disease, as it directly results in changes in skin texture. The main symptom of scleroderma is the hardening and thickening of the skin, caused by the disruption and ultimately degeneration of the collagen in the skin. Physical therapy may help delay skin thickening as well as teach individuals how to protect their skin in times of cold. Light treatments and even surgery may help ease symptoms of this disease, but no cure has been found.

Dermatomyositis results in inflammation of the skin, leading to skin with rashes and itching symptoms. Systemic lupus erythematosus is another collagen vascular disease which affects the immune system and can also impart a mild to severe rash on the skin. Other symptoms involve sensitivity to sunlight and fatigue, and some severe cases may lead to death if left untreated. As with all immune disorders, these conditions may be treated with anti-inflammatory medicines indefinitely to help ease symptoms, but not cure the actual illness.


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