Rheumatic Diseases are inflammatory conditions that cause varying levels of pain and discomfort in the joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones. People of any genetic makeup and background are susceptible to developing a rheumatic disease.
The term ‘rheumatic disease’ is a general one that encompasses over 100 different types of conditions. Because there are so many different types, rheumatic disease symptoms can significantly vary. There are some similarities, however, with most rheumatic diseases causing joint pain, joint stiffness, and a limited range of joint movement.
These diseases are chronic and progressive, meaning that there is no cure and the symptoms will become worse over time. Depending on the severity and type, rheumatic conditions can be incredibly debilitating.
Common Types of Rheumatic Diseases
● Ankylosing Spondylitis: A form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine, causing stiffness, difficulty moving, and back pain. The bones may even fuse together.
● Bursitis: The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones. They reduce friction between bones and the tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis causes these sacs to become inflamed, usually around the shoulder, elbow, and hip.
● Crohn’s Disease: Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, which can include the bowels and intestines. Symptoms include stomach pain, cramps, diarrhea, tiredness, and malnutrition.
● Fibromyalgia: A condition that can cause pain all throughout the body as well as a heightened sensitivity to pain. Other associated symptoms include insomnia, tiredness, and mental health problems.
● Gout: An acute form of arthritis that causes sudden and severe pain that can last for days at a time often in the big toe.
● Lupus: An autoimmune disease that causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, joint pain, fever, rashes, and organ damage. Lupus can cause lifelong symptoms that can greatly impact a person’s daily life.
● Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and it progressively breaks down cartilage. Without cartilage, bones will rub against one another during movement. As a result, osteoarthritis causes stiffness, pain, and a limited range of movement.
● Rheumatoid Arthritis: A common form of arthritis that inflames the lining of the joints and causes long-term damage and chronic pain, especially in the hands and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis can progress to the point where the sufferer’s mobility is impacted enough to cause permanent disability.
● Tendonitis: Tendonitis causes inflammation in the tendons that connect muscle to bone. It usually develops when these tendons are overused, injured, or if there is a preexisting rheumatic condition. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and restricted movement.
Rare rheumatic diseases
● Behcet's disease: Also called Behcet’s syndrome, this is a rare disorder that causes the blood vessels throughout the body to become inflamed. Symptoms can vary depending on where the body is affected. Some people only experience sporadic flare-ups. Symptoms include joint swelling and pain, eye inflammation, stomach pain and upset, poor balance, and oral and genital sores.
● Churg-Strauss syndrome: Churg-Strauss syndrome, also called eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, is another rare rheumatic disease that causes blood vessel inflammation. This type of inflammation can restrict blood flow to organs and tissues, potentially causing long-term complications. Churg-Strauss usually progresses through 3 stages, each worse than the previous. Symptoms include asthma, chronic sinusitis, joint and muscle pain, intestinal bleeding, and numbness in the extremities.
● Takayasu's arteritis: Takayasu's arteritis is a highly rare type of blood vessel inflammation. The inflammation caused by Takayasu’s arteritis damages the large artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body (the aorta). This can lead to narrowed or blocked arteries, aneurysms, chest pain, heart failure, and stroke. and tears. It also can lead to arm or chest pain, high blood pressure, and eventually, heart failure or stroke. Symptoms include tiredness, unexpected weight loss, muscle and joint pain, dizziness, high blood pressure, and a weakened pulse.
Rheumatic Diseases Causes
Most rheumatic diseases occur when your immune system attacks your body’s own tissues. Why the immune system does this isn’t fully understood, but there are some common risk factors.
Risk factors include:
● Gender: women are more likely to have a rheumatic condition than men.
● Age increases the risk of some rheumatic diseases.
● Certain types of infections may be a precursor to rheumatic diseases.
● A family history of rheumatic diseases.
● Prolonged exposure to pollution and cigarette smoke
Treatment of Rheumatic Diseases
If you suspect you may be suffering from a rheumatic disease, make an appointment with your GP. Your doctor will go over your medical history and may refer you onward for diagnostic tests or for a consultation with a rheumatologist if they suspect there’s something going on. Early diagnosis is key to successfully managing a rheumatic disease.
Because there are so many different types of rheumatic diseases, you may require several different tests to determine whether you have one and which one you have. This can be made even more complicated because symptoms of rheumatic diseases, especially lupus, can overlap with other diseases.
Once diagnosed, your rheumatic disease treatment will depend on which disease you’ve been diagnosed with and what your symptoms are. Topical analgesics, available over the counter, can be applied to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. Paracetamol can lower fever and also help with the pain.
One of the most effective treatments for rheumatic and inflammatory diseases is NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). They have several benefits including reducing redness, swelling, and inflammation.
A common type of NSAID is Diclofenac Sodium. It’s a non-steroidal compound with anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic properties. Available only on prescription, it comes in 25mg and 50mg strengths and can be used in the treatment of rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis. Diclofenac Sodium can also help with pain caused by menstruation and post-traumatic inflammation.
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