Connective tissue disease

Connective tissues are part of our body's structure and hold our cells together. Sometimes diseases affecting our connective tissue can make us feel unwell.

Connective tissue diseases, also known as autoimmune disease, include:

• Lupus

• Scleroderma (or systemic sclerosis)

• Polymyositis and dermatomyositis

• Sjogren’s syndrome

Our rheumatology consultants and nurses can help diagnose your symptoms through a series of examinations and tests before offering the best course of treatment.

About our service

In general, treatment is directed at reducing the inflammation in the tissues by using medication.

As with other rheumatic disorders, our consultants, nurses and healthcare team will manage your symptoms with medication, as well as helping you to learn how to cope with any flare-ups in the future.

We also work with physiotherapists and occupational therapists to help relieve the symptoms of joint pain, strengthen joints and provide advice and support with activities of daily living.

Our department participates actively in research and clinical trials, which are essential to discover new treatments and to make sure we are use existing treatments in the best possible way.

You may be asked by a member of the team about volunteering to participate in research, which is completely optional.

We see patients with connective tissue diseases in general clinics, some of which run in community hospitals, including Exmouth, Tiverton, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton and Okehampton.

Patients with connective tissue diseases/autoimmune diseases are seen in general clinics and also in combined clinics with other specialities, including dermatology, respiratory medicine and renal medicine (depending on the different organ systems involved).

Living with a connective tissue disease/autoimmune disease can be challenging both physically and emotionally.

We link with “talking health” services at the RDE. They can provide extra support with patients experiencing mental health difficulties. See here for more details.


The drugs used to treat your condition will depend on the severity of the disease and which parts of the body are affected.

Some drugs may be used to dampen down an overactive immune system, others to treat associated symptoms such as Raynaud’s phenomenon, dry eyes and mouth.

Patient information leaflets

We produce a wide range of leaflets which provide information about our services and about the treatment you might receive in our clinics or during your stay in hospital. 

We also produce these in different formats including large print, please contact the department you are visiting for more information.

Find out more

Useful videos

We have a wide range of videos which provide information about our services and about the treatment you might receive in our clinics or during your stay in hospital. 

Find out more

Information for healthcare professionals

Further information about management and referral pathways for osteoarthritis can be found on the Devon formulary website.

Last updated: September 20, 2022.


Our site uses cookies to help give you a better experience. By continuing to use it you consent to the use of cookies as set out in our privacy policy.