Rheumatic Diseases – More Than Just An Arthritis!


Rheumatic Diseases

Rheumatology Topics:


Today modern medicine recognizes over 100 different rheumatic diseases that are characterized by painful, swollen joints due to the deterioration of joint lining tissues for various reasons. There are multiple underlying factors that contribute to the progression of rheumatic disease like age, lifestyles, previous injuries, hereditary factors, autoimmune disorders and others. For some patients rheumatic diseases symptoms are mild and could be easily managed by occasional pain management therapy, for others – rheumatic diseases result in complete disability, loss of mobility and functioning of certain joints. Below we present information about the most common rheumatic diseases, their symptoms and treatment options.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the joints that is caused by the normal course of aging and wear and tear that time puts on our joints resulting in degenerating joint cushioning that leads to joint tissue inflammation, pain and loss of joint mobility. Elderly OA sufferers very often complain of pain, less strength in hands and legs, inability to perform everyday tasks that used to come easily like opening jars, using garlic press and even brushing hair. OA is diagnosed by x-rays or MRI testing that allow your physician to see deteriorating joint cushioning and even bone spurs in some cases. However, there are other rheumatic diseases that are so much more than degeneration of the joints as normal effects of aging and are caused by other, much more complex factors.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), on the other hand, does not only affect senior citizens but can be diagnosed in much younger patients. RA is not caused by normal wear and tear of the joints but rather by an autoimmune condition that makes a person’s own immune system attack his own joint tissues. Over time, the damage might be so significant that RA patients might lose mobility altogether. However, due to very similar symptoms one might confuse osteoarthritis with RA. While the symptoms might seem the same on the surface, during further examination, your doctor will be able to point out which type of rheumatic disease you might have. With osteoarthritis, one or several joints might be affected; in RA a very typical symmetrical joint pattern is showcased. For example, with RA both elbow or both knee joints are affected, never just one. In addition, if a blood test reveals further findings like a positive rheumatoid factor, the diagnosis is clear to be RA and not osteoarthritis. Patients diagnosed with RA also complain of symptoms going beyond arthritis-like complains, fever, unexplained weight loss and constant fatigue. In earlier stages 90% of patients display pain and swelling of the smaller joints in the body like hands or feet that progress to the remaining joints in the later stages of the illness. At this point, there’s no cure for most autoimmune system disorders, including RA, however, your physician can prescribe therapy and medication to lessen the uncomfortable symptoms like pain killers, anti-inflammatory medicine or physical therapy. In some cases, full joint replacement or other types of surgery might be necessary to manage your condition. You can also try some great herbal remedies as an addition to doctor prescribed course of treatment like fish oil capsules and thunder god vine root preparations.

Lupus is another autoimmune disorder that tends to affect a person’s joint tissues as one of the symptoms. Additionally, other organs and tissues may get affected in association with Lupus condition like patient’s veins resulting in vasculitis or inflammatory vein deterioration. Patients affected by this particular autoimmune disorder might develop other symptoms like rashes on face and body, aches and pains virtually all over body, fatigue, fever and blood disorders. As with any autoimmune disorder, there’s currently no cure for this condition and treatment options focus mainly on supportive therapy to lessen pain and discomfort of patients.

There are other medical conditions that could lead to rheumatic diseases in the end like, for example, scleroderma and fibromyalgia.

Scleroderma is characterized as a systemic autoimmune condition that affect patients’ skin, internal organs and joints leading to inflammation, significant pain and hardening of the tissues. Since there’s no cure, the therapy is limited to immune suppressive therapies and other supportive medications to lessen the symptoms and slow down the progression of the illness.

With fibromyalgia as one of rheumatic diseases, the heightened painful disorder is not limited to joints but also to muscles and other connective tissues of the whole body. While some patients experience mild joint stiffness and pain, others are tormented by excruciating sensations, tingling, depression, insomnia and even bowel system symptoms.

As you can see, rheumatic diseases go beyond osteoarthritis and take much more complex measures of treatment to improve patients’ well-being.