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.

More on what we do

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.


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.

Our team

Our rheumatology team includes six consultants and a Staff Grade:

  • Dr Earl
  • Dr Haigh
  • Dr Brown
  • Dr Mascarenhas
  • Dr Abusalameh
  • Dr Cates
  • Dr Murphy


We have five nurse specialists:

  • Jill Moran
  • Tracey Morey
  • Gillian Hawkins
  • Sharon Mulcahy
  • Rachael Shaw


All consultants see patients with autoimmune rheumatic disease.

Where to find us

RD&E Wonford, Barrack Rd, Exeter EX2 5DW

Contact us

Most clinics run in the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre, level 0.

Your appointment letter will tell you where to attend.

Connective tissue diseases can affect the kidneys so it’s useful to bring a urine sample in a clean plastic container to your appointments for testing if required.

RD&E Wonford, Barrack Rd, Exeter EX2 5DW

Patient leaflets and documents

Community services

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.

Children and young people

Dr Earl runs a young adult rheumatology clinic and supports a paediatric clinic where she sees patients with a variety of rheumatic diseases.


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).

Supporting you

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.


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