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Connective Tissue Disease Clinic and Research Center

The Connective Tissue Disease Clinic and Research Center is dedicated to treating patients with autoimmune connective tissue diseases (CTDs) that affect skin, including cutaneous lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, and morphea (localized scleroderma). In addition, we use research to better understand the underlying development of these disorders, with a focus on identifying treatments.

The connective tissues are the main structural portions of the human body that primarily function to support and protect internal organs. CTDs are a group of abnormal conditions resulting from damage to the connective tissues. Some of the CTDs are the result of a genetic abnormality that could be inherited.

However, a large number of CTDs are considered autoimmune, i.e., are the result of the patient’s overreactive immune system attacking and damaging their normal tissue.

Autoimmune CTDs are disorders in which both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Although, the exact nature and the underlying cause of those risk factors are not currently fully understood. autoimmune CTDs are relatively rare conditions, but overall tend to be more common in women.

Autoimmune CTDs may be limited to skin, but more commonly affect other internal organs. For this reason, management and treatment of these conditions typically requires a multidisciplinary collaboration between a dermatologist and other specialists such as rheumatologists and nephrologists, among others.

Typical Connective Tissue Diseases We Treat 

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), including its different subtypes (subacute CLE, chronic and discoid CLE, lupus panniculitis, etc.)
Lupus erythematosus is a mixed group of autoimmune conditions that may present as a systemic condition affecting multiple organs such as kidneys, joints, heart, lungs, and brain, or be confined to the skin. Skin manifestations occur mainly in sun-exposed areas of the body. There are multiple different variants of CLE depending on how deeply they affect the skin and with varying degrees of association with systemic disease (SLE).

Dermatomyositis (DM), including both juvenile and adult-onset DM
DM is a rare inflammatory autoimmune disease occurring in children of 5 to 15 years old and middle-age adults where females are affected twice as much as men. DM presents with progressive, symmetric muscle weakness and/or characteristic skin appearances, including intense redness and itching on the scalp, swelling and redness of the eyelids, and scaly red rash of sun-exposed areas of the chest, back, and arms. Adult-onset DM may be associated with underlying cancer, and therefore it is critical to monitor and screen the patient closely for any undiagnosed malignancy. 

Morphea (localized scleroderma), including its different subtypes (circumscribed, generalized, linear, deep, en coup de sabre, etc.)
Morphea, also known as localized scleroderma, is a rare inflammatory autoimmune disease presenting with progressive skin tightness that can eventually cause permanent skin scarring and discoloration. Depending of the extent, depth, and location, untreated morphea can lead to loss of functions and disfigurement.

In addition, we see and treat patients with the following conditions:

  • Systemic Sclerosis/Scleroderma
  • Eosinophilic Fasciitis
  • Cutaneous Sarcoidosis
  • Pityriasis Rubra Pilaris
  • Adult Atopic Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis