connective tissue disorders

Diagnosing and Treating Connective Tissue Disorders

Treating connective tissue disorders can be challenging—because no two children’s conditions are exactly the same.

But at OIC, we specialize in pediatric medical conditions and understand the many symptoms and medical issues that can arise in children with connective tissue disorders. Our goal is to develop a treatment plan that provides maximum healing and relief for your child. 

Diagnosing Connective Tissue Disorders

The first step in treating connective tissue disorders is getting the right diagnosis. Diagnosing a connective tissue disorder can take a multifaceted approach.

In some cases, a healthcare provider can diagnose a disorder through a physical exam. Other times, your child might have to undergo blood tests or imaging tests (e.g., X-rays) to confirm a diagnosis.

At OIC, we are here to provide care and support throughout this journey, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond into recovery.

Treating Connective Tissue Disorders

 Many times, connective tissue disorders can be treated with:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, which can reduce redness, swelling, and pain
  • Lifestyle adjustments, such as an altered diet or scaling back on certain types of physical activity

Treatment for connective tissue disorders not only varies by diagnosis, but is based on your child’s overall health. The treatment team at OIC will work closely with you to design a treatment plan that is tailored to your child’s specific needs. 

Here are some of the typical treatment options for several common connective tissue disorders:


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment has several goals, including: 

  • Decreasing swelling
  • Allowing your child to keep a full range of motion in his joints
  • Reducing pain
  • Preventing complications, such as damaged joints
  • Eliminating symptoms so that the RA is considered inactive (also called remission)

Treatment for your child’s rheumatoid arthritis might include:


Several types of medications are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, such as:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, which can decrease inflammation and pain
  • Anti-rheumatic drugs like methotrexate, which can prevent joint-damaging inflammation
  • Biologic agents, a newer treatment option aimed at keeping a person’s rheumatoid arthritis from worsening by controlling the immune system
  • Corticosteroids, which are usually used when symptoms are severe. This type of medication can cause side effects such as weight gain or bone weakening.


Exercise is important for all children, but this is especially true for kids with connective tissue disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Regular exercise can help children with RA by promoting good muscle tone and joint motion.

At OIC, our physical therapists are ready to teach your child how to exercise in a way that is right for his body in order to reduce RA symptoms and promote overall health.


In some cases, wearing a splint for part of the day can decrease inflammation and keep arthritic joints from becoming deformed. These splints are usually used on arms or hands. The treatment team at OIC can work with you and your child to determine if splinting should be a part of RA treatment.


Scleroderma Treatment

The main goal of scleroderma treatment is getting the inflammation under control. To accomplish this, your child’s treatment options might include: 

  • Topical medications—such as corticosteroids—that both reduce inflammation and soften the skin
  • Systemic or oral medications—such as methotrexate—that prevent your child’s immune system from attacking the body’s own tissue  



Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, Or Lupus) Treatment

As with scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis, the goal of treatment is to control inflammation and many of the treatments are similar. In order to do this, your child might have to take a type of medication called an immunosuppressive, which is designed to keep the immune system from attacking the body’s tissue. 

Lupus treatment might include a combination of several medications, such as: 


Suppressing the immune system can both decrease lupus symptoms and keep organ damage at bay. There are several different types of medications that can be used to suppress the immune system in lupus patients.


Your child might also need to take a corticosteroid—like prednisone—to help manage inflammation.  

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen can also be an important part of lupus treatment. They are typically taken to help manage your child’s pain.


Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) Treatment

As with most disorders, the goal of osteogenesis imperfecta treatment is to control symptoms and prevent complications in order to improve your child’s quality of life.

Treatment options will vary based on the type and severity of your child’s OI and might include: 

  • Bisphosphonates: A type of medication aimed at slowing the breakdown of bone tissue, which can decrease the risk of fractures and reduce bone pain in children with OI. This medication is given as an infusion in childhood.
  • Immobilization: Keeping fractured bones aligned using casts, braces, or splints in order to allow them to heal properly.
  • Rodding: Surgically implanting metal rods into the long bones in a child’s arms or legs to provide additional strength, which can reduce the risk of fractures.
  • Spinal fusion: Some children with OI also develop scoliosis. If the curve is severe, surgically readjusting and then fusing the bones in the spine can prevent the scoliosis from becoming worse.
  • Physical therapy: Low-impact exercises can promote bone and muscle strength. They are also an important part of recovering from OI-related fractures.


Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Treatment

The main goal of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome treatment is lowering your child’s risk for injuries and complications. 

To accomplish this, treatment often includes a combination of: 

  • Pain relievers—either over-the-counter or prescription—to ease pain in your child’s muscles and joints.
  • Exercise aimed at both building muscle strength and increasing support in joints that might become unstable.