Connective Tissue Diseases

What are Connective Tissue Diseases, including Wegener’s Granulomatosis and Sarcoidosis ?

Our multidisciplinary team at the Yale Sinus and Allergy Program has extensive experience in treating patients with a variety of connective tissue diseases, including Wegener’s granulomatosis and sarcoidosis. Connective tissue plays a role in many parts of the body, including tendons, blood, cartilage, bone, fat tissue, and lymphatic tissue. The main building blocks of connective tissue are the proteins collagen and elastin. Elastin allows the tissue to stretch and then return to its original size.  

Wegener’s Granulomatosis

Wegener’s granulomatosis is a connective tissue disease that affects blood vessels, making blood flow restricted when the blood vessels swell. Common effects of Wegener’s granulomatosis include a constantly runny nose, pus-filled nasal discharge, nosebleeds, and sinus pain and inflammation. 

Sarcoidosis

Patients with sarcoidosis develop tiny clumps of inflammatory cells in different areas of the body, such as the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, and skin. Sarcoidosis is most likely caused by an immune response to an airborne irritant. For some people, sarcoidosis will go away without treatment. Other people may experience sarcoidosis throughout their lives.

At the Yale Sinus and Allergy Program, our multidisciplinary team of specialists works with you to create a customized treatment plan for your specific type of connective tissue disease and symptoms. 

Symptoms of Connective Tissue Diseases

Symptoms of a connective tissue disorder may vary depending on the specific disorder. 

If you have Wegener’s Granulomatosis, you may experience:
  • Constantly runny nose with pus-filled discharge
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sinus pain and inflammation 
  • Hoarse voice
  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Ear infections
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • General ill feeling
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Joint aches and swelling
  • Blood in urine 
  • Skin sores
  • Eye redness, burning, or pain
  • Double or decreased vision
  • Fever
  • Weakness and fatigue, possibly associated with low red blood cell count (anemia)
If you have sarcoidosis, symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Rash with reddish-purple bumps
  • Lesions or skin sores on the nose, cheeks, and ears 
  • Color changes in the skin, either darker or lighter, in certain areas
  • Nodules, or growths, just under the skin 
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Severe redness in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
These lists should be used as guidelines. Not every symptom is included. If you have one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean that you have a connective tissue disease. Contact your doctor right away if you think you may have a connective tissue disease. 

Causes of Connective Tissue Diseases

Most patients with connective tissue diseases have abnormal immune system responses that cause inflammation and that inflammation often times causes damage to the elastin and collagen.

Risk Factors of Connective Tissues Diseases

Overall, research has not provided a clear link to risk factors and connective tissue diseases. In some cases, when there is a family history of connective tissue diseases, there may be a higher risk for getting the disorder. There may be a higher risk for people exposed to certain industrial chemicals, such as vinyl chloride and silica, though more research is needed.  

Treatment for Connective Tissue Diseases

Treatment for connective tissue diseases depends on the type of disease and its symptoms. At the Yale Sinus and Allergy Program, we have extensive experience in treating a variety of connective tissue diseases with the latest in medical and surgical care. 

Medication to treat symptoms of connective tissue disease include a variety of anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids and TNF-alpha inhibitors. Medications that suppress your immune system may also be used. 

Topical medications, including nasal saline irrigations, nasal steroids, and nasal antibiotics can often be helpful in managing the sinonasal symptoms associated with connective tissue disorders. Surgery is often reserved for patients with anatomic blockages of their sinuses.