Cochin Cardiac Club

Health Blog by Dr.Uday Nair


Collagen is a tough, fiber-like protein that makes up 30% of body protein. It contributes to the structure of tendons, bones, and connective tissues.Collagen vascular disease occurs when problems with the immune system affect collagen.

Collagen vascular diseases,sometimes called connective tissue diseases(CTDs)or autoimmune diseases,cover a wide array of disorders in which the body's natural immune or self-protection system fails to recognize its own tissues and goes on attack against itself.Some of these diseases limit their damage to a single organ,and others spread problems throughout the body.These can include 

  • Scleroderma: 
    This progressive and systemic sclerosis causes skin to thicken and tough fibrous tissue to form in the internal organs of the digestive tract,kidneys,heart,and lungs.
  • Sjogren's syndrome:
    This causes dry mouth,dry eyes,and other symptoms.
  • Polymyositis and dermatomyositis: 
    These are inflammatory muscle disorders that may also affect the skin,the heart,and the lungs.
  • Mixed connective tissue diseases: 
    These combine features of lupus,scleroderma,and polymyositis.
  • Polyarteritis nodosa: 
    This disorder can damage small and medium-sized arteries of almost any organ,including the kidneys, heart,and intestines.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: 
    Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory* disease that causes stiffness in the joints (places where bones meet) and can lead to disfigurement.
    In rheumatoid arthritis, the autoimmune process begins in connective tissue and the cushiony membranes that surround joints and the ends of bones.Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to begin when T cells mistake the body's own collagen cells for foreign antigens and alert B cells to produce antibodies to fight the invader. The leukocytes rush in and produce cytokines, small proteins that are essential in healing the body but which can cause serious damage in large doses. The inflammation and joint damage that result can lead to joint deformities and can spread throughout the body to other sites of connective tissue.
  • Raynaud's Disease: 
    Often,people who have collagen vascular diseases are also diagnosed with Raynaud's disease,although not everyone who has Raynaud's disease has a collagen vascular disease.Raynaud's disease is a disorder in which the vessels that supply blood to the fingers and toes respond to cold or other stimuli by going into spasm (contracting),which reduces the supply of blood and causes the digits to turn white,feel numb,tingle,or burn. In rare severe cases,the restriction of the arteries may cause the fingers to thicken, which can lead to ulcerations (loss of tissue) at the finger tips as well as changes in the fingernails.Sometimes,gangrene (tissue death)can occur.


Symptoms differ depending on the illness, but they often include joint pain, fever, rash, recurrent infections, fatigue, mouth ulcers, dry mouth and dry eyes, hair loss, difficulty swallowing, swollen glands, or fingers and toes that get overly cold when exposed to cooler temperatures. 


Damage to internal body structures that contain collagen induces an inflammatory response by the immune system. This inflammatory signal can result in an increase in a person's body temperature. Consequently, people with collagen vascular disease can develop a fever as a sign of this condition,People with fever can appear flushed and may begin to sweat. Additional symptoms associated with fever can include chills and headaches. A fever can also be a sign of alternate medical conditions, such as the flu or common cold. People who develop an unusually high or persistent fever should seek care from a medical professional.


People with collagen vascular disease can develop anemia as a symptom.Anemia occurs when a person has an unusually low level of blood cells within the body. Symptoms of anemia can include pale skin, excessive fatigue, dizziness, headache, heart rate irregularities, breathing difficulties or unusually cold extremities. Without treatment, the symptoms of anemia can become progressively more severe.

Inflamed Joints

Collagen vascular disease can result in collagen degradation within a person's joints. As the collagen degrades, affected people can develop symptoms of severe joint inflammation. Joint inflammation can cause affected joints to appear unusually swollen or tender to the touch. People with this type of disease can have difficulty bending and flexing the affected joint normally. Persistent joint inflammation can also cause chronic pain symptoms in people with collagen vascular disease.

Fatigue or Weakness

People with this type of disease can experience excessive fatigue as a symptom.Increased fatigue may be accompanied by muscle or body weakness in certain people. Affected people can have difficulty performing normal daily tasks associated with work or school due to fatigue symptoms. Additionally, excessive fatigue can make it difficult for people to concentrate and remain alert throughout the day.


The doctor can sometimes detect a particular connective tissue disease simply by the physical examination. Frequently, blood testing, X-ray examination, and other tests can help in making a diagnosis of connective tissue disease.


Treatment for collagen vascular disease varies according to your individual condition. However, corticosteroid and immunosuppressant medications commonly treat many connective tissue diseases.


Corticosteroids reduce inflammation throughout the body. This class of drugs also helps normalize your immune system. Corticosteroids can carry major side effects in some people, including weight gain and mood changes. Some people may see a rise in blood sugar while taking corticosteroid medications.


Immunosuppressant medication works by lowering your immune response. When your immune response is lower, your body will no longer attack itself as much. However, having a lowered immunity can increase your risk of becoming sick at times. Protect yourself from simple viruses by staying away from family and friends with colds or flu.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy or gentle exercise can also treat collagen vascular disease. Range of motion exercises help you retain your mobility and may reduce joint and muscle pain.

Long-Term Outlook

The outlook for collagen vascular disease varies in each person, and really depends on the specific disease. However, they do have one thing in common: all autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions. They have no cure, and you must manage them throughout your life. Luckily, there are effective treatments to help keep even severe symptoms at bay.

  • In severe cases of collagen disease, the organs become involved. Serious complications can lead to death.


Unknown said...

Could you tell me one thing that Collagen and cholesterol are the same or do they differ from each other? I am doing a study on cardio and vascular so, want to know about this.

Dr.Uday D.Nair said...

Dear Amy,
Collagen is a protein made up of amino-acids, which are in turn built of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Collagen contains specific amino acids – Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Arginine. Collagen makes up approximately 30% of the proteins within the body. These are tough and strong structures found all over the body: in bones, tendons and ligaments.

Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which is produced by the liver. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its outer layer.

Hope that answers your query....