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Since MCTD overlaps (mixes) different connective tissue disorders, there are many different types, and consequently, many prognoses. Complaints and symptoms depend on the organs involved, the degree of inflammation and the general degree of disease activity. In general the prognosis is favourable if the disease is adequately treated. Life expectancy is comparable to the life expectancy in lupus, i.e. favorable with a few exceptions.
The diagnosis is based on complaints, symptoms and organ involvement and on the presence of anti-U1RNP antibodies in high titre (concentration). It is the only connective tissue disease for which one specific type of antibody is necessary to make a diagnosis (at least in most centres). If the doctor suspects the diagnosis of MCTD, some additional tests like lung function tests, heart check-up, examination of the kidneys and blood pressure need to be carried out. In case of muscle complaints or nerve pains an electromyography is necessary. The results of these examinations may also contribute to a diagnosis.
Although treatments with a low dose of corticosteroids have been successful, there is no standard procedure for MCTD. The treatment is based on the type and degree of organ involvement, and can be a treatment for lupus or for scleroderma. The treatment has to be individualized for each patient. IVIg can reverse this disease please see that section.
MCTD and pregnancy
Surveys on the subject are quite different. The influence of pregnancy on MCTD or vice versa can be compared to pregnancy in lupus.
Overlapping syndromes
Besides MCTD there exist also other overlap syndromes which are less clearly definable or which do not have anti-U1RNP antibodies. As in MCTD, treatment is based on the type and degree of organ involvement and it is individualized for each patient. The evolution and prognosis are also comparable to MCTD, except that there may be more individual dissimilarities among patients.
Undefined Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD)
In the early phase of a connective tissue disease and especially at the onset of an overlap syndrome or MCTD, the symptoms can be very limited and unusual. Although the onset of a connective tissue disease can be certain in such cases, it is impossible to define the type of disease with certainty. That is why the term UCTD (= undefined connective tissue disease) is used. Mostly Raynauds phenomenon, joint pains, sometimes arthritis and muscle pains are present. The evolution is very diverse: some patients remain in this phase while others evolve quickly into a real form of lupus or another type of connective tissue disease. Again, treatment has to be individualized according to each patient.