What Are Rheumatic Diseases?
Rheumatic diseases are diseases that attack the joints, bones, muscles, and organs in the body. They are considered to be autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that trigger the body to attack itself. These types of diseases are sometimes just referred to as arthritis, which is a broad term used to describe many different inflammatory diseases. If left untreated, rheumatic diseases can cause permanent damage to the organs and become debilitating and even fatal.
Types of Rheumatic Diseases
There are over 100 different types of rheumatic diseases. Some of the most common include:
- Osteoarthritis– This a type of arthritis that affects the cartilage in the bones.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – This an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the tissue that lines the joints.
- Fibromyalgia – A condition that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body.
- Lupus – A type of autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints and organs.
- Gout– A condition where uric acid builds up in and around the joints.
- Scleroderma – A condition that causes the skin to thicken and tighten and can also affect the organs.
- Bursitis– A disease that causes the fluid-filled sacs in the joints to become inflamed.
- Spondylitis – A type of inflammation that affects the spine, neck, hips, and knees.
The causes of rheumatic diseases are unknown, but it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at fault. Age, race, and diet may also be factors.
The symptoms of rheumatic diseases can vary by person and the type of disease. Some of the most common rheumatic symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Stiffness in the morning
- Hots spots on the skin
- Difficulty with mobility
- Frequent infections
- Difficulty inhaling
- Muscle pain and weakness
If you have any of these symptoms you must see your primary care or consult a Rheumatologist.
Because there are so many different types of rheumatic diseases, it can be difficult to diagnose them. The most common ways these diseases are diagnosed include:
- Blood Tests – Blood tests can check to see if there are any issues that could be causing the symptoms besides rheumatic disease. They can help rule out other health problems and check for antibodies, organ problems and inflammation markers.
- Medical History – Doctors look at the medical history to see if a patient is at risk for certain types of rheumatic diseases.
- Imaging Tests – Imaging tests can help doctors determine if the joints are inflamed and look at other body parts and organs, as well. Things like fluid buildup, cartilage loss, soft tissue injuries, and bone or joint erosion can all show up on imaging tests and point to a rheumatic disease.
Treatments for rheumatic diseases are based on the exact condition and the symptoms. There are numerous options, but some of the most common include:
- Oral painkillers – They help stop the pain associated with joint inflammation and rheumatic diseases.
- Topical painkillers – These can be applied directly to the skin at the site of the pain to provide some relief.
- Anti-inflammatory medication – These medications help reduce swelling associated with rheumatic diseases.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs – These medications help change the way the body’s immune system works and can help slow the progression of these diseases.
- Corticosteroids – Steroids can be used to reduce inflammation and swelling. They are usually only prescribed for short-term use.
There is no cure for rheumatic diseases, but with treatment, the prognosis is good. Once diagnosed with a rheumatic disease, most people must take medication to control it for the rest of their lives.